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No. 65 in the series of Monographs by writers connected with the 
London School of Economics and Political Science 




of London Press (out of print), 1913. 

out of print), 1915. 

" THE NATIVES OF MAILU." Adelaide : Trans, of the R. Soc. of S. 
Australia for 1915. pp. 494-706. 1915. 

ARGONAUTS OF THE WESTERN PACIFIC. London : Geo. Routledge and 
Sons ; New York : E. P. Dutton and Co. 1922. 

" MAGIC, SCIENCE, AND RELIGION," in Essays collected by J. Needham, 
under the title Science, Religion, and Reality. London : The Sheldon 
Press ; New York and Toronto : The Macmillan Co. 1926. 

MYTH IN PRIMITIVE PSYCHOLOGY. London : Kegan Paul and Co. ; 
New York : W. W. Norton and Co. 1926. 

Co. ; New York : Harcourt Brace and Co. 1926. 

New York : W. W. Norton and Co. 1927. 

Co. ; New York : Harcourt Brace and Co. 1927. 




*An ^Account of Dative Enterprise 

and *Ad*penture in the ^Archipelagoes 

of ^Melanesian 3\(ew Quinea 



PH.D. (Cracow), D.Sc. (London) 









Male and Punted in Great Hntatn b\ 

l'rnv iMtul, Humphnes o" (. /.w 

^ I men Cut net London, I 1 (1 | 

and iit It md ford 




MY esteemed friend, Dr. B. Malinowski has asked me to 
write a preface to his book, and I willingly comply with 
his request, though I can hardly think that any words 
of mine will add to the value of the remarkable record 
of anthropological research which he has given us in this 
volume. My observations, such as they are, will deal 
partly with the writer's method and partly with the 
matter of his book. 

In regard to method, Dr. Malinowski has done his 
work, as it appears to me, under the best conditions and 
in the manner calculated to secure the best possible 
results. Both by theoretical training and by practical 
experience he was well equipped for the task which he 
undertook. Of his theoretical training he had given 
proof in his learned and thoughtful treatise on the family 
among the aborigines of Australia*; of his practical 
experience he had produced no less satisfactory evidence 
in his account of the natives of Mailu in New Guinea, 
based on a residence of six months among them.f In 
the Trobriand Islands, to the east of New Guinea, to 
which he next turned his attention, Dr. Malinowski 
lived as a native among the natives for many months 
together, watching them daily at work and at play, 
conversing with them in their own tongue, and deriving 
all his information from the surest sources persona) 
observation and statements made to him directly by the 

* The Family among the Australian Aborigine*: A Sociological Studv. 
London University of London Prcsb, ig 13. 

t "The Natives of Mailu Prehmin.iry Results of the Robert Mond Research 
Work in British New Guinea." Transactions of the Royal Society of South 
Australia, vol. xxxix., 1915, 


natives in their own language without the intervention 
of an interpreter. In this way he has accumulated a large 
mass of materials, of high scientific value, bearing on the 
social, religious, and economic or industrial life of the 
Trobriand Islanders, These he hopes and intends to 
publish hereafter in full ; meantime he has given us in 
the present volume a preliminary study of an interesting 
and peculiar feature in Trobriand society, the remark- 
able system of exchange, only in part economic or 
commercial, which the islanders maintain among them- 
selves and with the inhabitants of neighbouring islands. 

Little reflection is needed to convince us of the funda- 
mental importance of economic forces at all stages of 
man's career from the humblest to the highest. After 
all, the human species is part of the animal creation, and 
as such, like the rest of the animals, it reposes on a 
material foundation ; on which a higher life, intellectual, 
moral, social, may be built, but without which no such 
superstructure is possible. That material foundation, 
consisting in the necessity of food and of a certain degree 
of warmth and shelter from the elements, forms the 
economic or industrial basis and prime condition of human 
life. If anthropologists have hitherto unduly neglected 
it, we may suppose that it was rather because they were 
attracted to the higher side of man's nature than because 
they deliberately ignored and undervalued the importance 
and indeed necessity of the lower. In excuse for their 
neglect we may also remember that anthropology is still 
a young science, and that the multitude of problems 
which await the student cannot all be attacked at once, 
but .must be grappled with one by one. Be that as it 
may, Dr. Malinowski has done well to emphasise the great 
significance of primitive economics by singling out the 
notable exchange system of the Trobriand Islanders for 
special consideration. 

Further, he has wisely refused to limit himself to a 
mere description of the processes of the exchange, and 
has set himself to penetrate the motives which underlie 
it and the feelings which it excites in the minds of the 


natives. It appears to be sometimes held that pure 
sociology should confine itself to the description of acts 
and should leave the problems of motives and feelings to 
psychology. Doubtless it is true that the analysis of 
motives and feelings is logically distinguishable from the 
description of acts, and that it falls, strictly speaking, 
within the sphere of psychology ; but in practice an act 
has no meaning for an observer unless he knows or infers 
the thoughts and emotions of the agent ; hence to 
describe a series of acts, without any reference to the state 
of mind of the agent, would not answer the purpose of 
sociology, the aim of which is not merely to register but 
to understand the actions of men in society. Thus 
sociology cannot fulfil its task without calling in at 
every turn the aid of psychology. 

It is characteristic of Dr. Malinowski's method that 
he takes full account of the complexity of human nature. 
He sees man, so to say, in the round and not in the flat. 
He remembers that man is a creature of emotion at least 
as much as of reason, and he is constantly at pains to 
discover the qjnotional as well as the rational basis of 
human action. The man of science, like the man of 
letters, is too apt to view mankind only in the abstract, 
selecting for his consideration a single side of our com- 
plex and many-sided being. Of this one-sided treatment 
Moliere is a conspicuous example among great writers. 
All his characters are seen only in the fiat : one of them 
is a miser, another a hypocrite, another a coxcomb, 
and so on ; but not one of them is a man. All are dummies 
dressed up to look very like human beings ; but the 
likeness is only on the surface, all within is hollow and 
empty, because truth to nature has been sacrificed to 
literary effect. Very different is the presentation of 
human nature in the greater artists, such as Cervantes 
and Shakespeare : their characters are solid, being 
drawn not from one side only but from many. No doubt 
in science a certain abstractness of treatment is not 
merely legitimate, but necessary, since science is nothing 
but knowledge raised to the highest power, and all 


knowledge implies a process of abstraction and general- 
isation : even the recognition of an individual whom we 
see every day is only possible as the result of an abstract 
idea of him formed by generalisation from his appear- 
ances in the past. Thus the science of man is forced to 
abstract certain aspects of human nature and to con- 
sider them apart from the concrete reality ; or ratter it 
falls into a number of sciences, each of which considers 
a single part of man's complex organism, it may be the 
physical, the intellectual, the moral, or the social side 
of his being ; and the general conclusions which it draws 
will present a more or less incomplete picture of man as a 
whole, because the lines which compose it are necessarily 
but a few picked out of a multitude. 

In the present treatise Dr. Malinowski is mainly 
concerned with what at first sight might seem a purely 
economic activity of the Trobriand Islanders ; but, 
with his usual width of outlook and fineness of perception, 
he is careful to point out that the curious circulation of 
valuables, which takes place between the inhabitants of 
the Trobriand and other islands, while it is accompanied 
by ordinary trade, is by no means itself a purely com- 
mercial transaction ; he shows that it is not based on a 
simple calculation of utility, of profit and loss, but that it 
satisfies emotional and aesthetic needs of a higher order 
than the mere gratification of animal wants. This 
leads Dr. Malinowski to pass some severe strictures 
on the conception of the Primitive Economic Man as 
a kind of bogey who, it appears, still haunts economic 
text-books and even extends his blighting influence 
to the minds of certain anthropologists. Rigged out in 
cast-off garments of Mr. Jeremy Bentham and Mr. 
Gradgrind, this horrible phantom is apparently actuated 
by no other motive than that of filthy lucre, which he 
pursues relentlessly, on Spencerian principles, along the 
line of least resistance. If such a dismal fiction is really 
regarded by serious inquirers as having any counterpart 
in savage society, and not simply as a useful abstraction, 
Dr. Malinowski 1 s account of the Kula in this book should 


help to lay the phantom by the heels ; for he proves that 
the trade in useful objects, which forms part of the Kula 
system, is in the minds of the natives entirely sub- 
ordinate in importance to the exchange of other objects, 
which serve no utilitarian purpose whatever. In its 
combination of commercial enterprise, social organi- 
sation, mythical background, and magical ritual, to say 
nothing of the wide geographical range of its operations, 
this singular institution appears to have no exact parallel 
in the existing anthropological record ; but its discoverer, 
Dr. Malinowski, may very well be right in surmising 
that it is probably a type of institution of which ana- 
logous, if not precisely similar, instances will hereafter 
be brought to light by further research among savage 
and barbarous peoples. 

Not the least interesting and instructive feature of 
the Kula, as it is described for us by Dr. Malinowski, is the 
extremely important part which magic is seen to play in 
the institution. From his description it appears that in 
the minds of the natives the performance of magical rites 
and the utterance of magical words are indispensable for 
the success of the enterprise in all its phases, from the 
felling of the trees out of which the canoes are to be 
hollowed, down to the moment when, the expedition 
successfully accomplished, the argosy with its precious 
cargo is about to start on its homeward voyage. And 
incidentally we learn that magical ceremonies and spells 
are deemed no less necessary for the cultivation of gardens 
and foj success in fishing, the two forms of industrial 
enterprise which furnish the islanders with their 
principal means of support ; hence the garden magician, 
whose business it is to promote the growth of the garden 
produce by his hocus-pocus, is one of the most important 
men in the village, ranking next after the chief and the 
sorcerer. In short, magic is believed to be an absolutely 
essential adjunct of every industrial undertaking, being 
just as requisite for its success as the mechanical oper- 
ations involved in it, such as the caulking, painting and 
launching of a canoe, the planting of a garden, and the 


setting of a fish-trap. u A belief in magic," says Dr. 
Malinowski, " is one of the main psychological forces 
which allow for organisation and systematisation of 
economic effort in the Trobriands." 

This valuable account of magic as a factor of 
fundamental economic importance for the welfare and 
indeed for the very existence of the community should 
suffice to dispel the erroneous view that magic, as 
opposed to religion, is in its nature essentially male- 
ficent and anti-social, being always used by an 
individual for the promotion of his own selfish ends 
and the injury of his enemies, quite regardless of its 
effect on the common weal. No doubt magic may be 
so employed, and has in fact probably been so employed, 
in every part of the world ; in the Trobriand Islands 
themselves it is believed to be similarly practised for 
nefarious purposes by sorcerers, who inspire the natives 
with the deepest dread and the most constant concern. 
But in itself magic is neither beneficent nor maleficent ; 
it is simply an imaginary power of controlling the forces 
of nature, and this control may be exercised by the 
magician for good or evil, for the benefit or injury of 
individuals and of the community. In this respect, 
magic is exactly on the same footing with the sciences, of 
which it is the bastard sister. They, too, in themselves, 
are neither good nor evil, though they become the source 
of one or other according to their application. It would 
be absurd, for example, to stigmatise pharmacy as anti- 
social, because a knowledge of the properties of drugs is 
often employed to destroy men as well as to heal them. It 
is equally absurd to neglect the beneficent application of 
magic and to single out its maleficent use as the character- 
istic property by which to define it. The processes of 
nature, over which science exercises a real and magic an 
imaginary control, are not affected by the moral dis- 
position, the good or bad intention, of the individual who 
uses his knowledge to set them in motion. The action of 
drugs on the human body is precisely the same whether 
they are administered by a physician or by a poisoner. 


Nature and her handmaid Science are neither friendly 
nor hostile to morality ; they are simply indifferent to it 
and equally ready to do the bidding of the saint and of 
the sinner, provided only that he gives them the proper 
word of command. If the guns are well loaded and well 
aimed, the fire of the battery will be equally destructive, 
whether the gunners are patriots fighting in defence of 
their country or invaders waging a war of unjust aggres- 
sion. The fallacy of differentiating a science or an art 
according to its application and the moral intention of the 
agent is obvious enough with regard to pharmacy and 
artillery ; it is equally real, though to many people 
apparently it is less obvious, with regard to magic. 

The immense influence wielded by magic over 
the whole life and thought of the Trobriand Islanders 
is perhaps the feature of Dr. Malinowski's book which 
makes the most abiding impression on the mind of the 
reader. He tells us that " magic, the attempt of man 
to govern the forces of nature directly by means of a 
special lore, is all-pervading and all-important in the 
Trobriands '' ; it is " interwoven into all the many 
industrial and communal activities " ; "all the data 
which have been so far mustered disclose the extreme 
importance of magic in the Kula. But if it were a 
questions of treating of any other aspect of the tribal life 
of these natives, it would also be found that, whenevei 
they approach any concern of vital importance, 1hey 
summon magic to their aid. It can be saiel without 
exaggeration that magic, according to their ideas, 
governs human destinies ; that it supplies man with the 
power of mastering the forces of nature ; and that it is 
his weapon and armour against the many dangers which 
crowd in upon him on every side." 

Thus in the view of the Trobriand Islanders, rtiagic is a 
power of supreme importance either for good or evil ; it 
can make or mar the life of man ; it can sustain and pro- 
tect the individual and the community, or it can injure 
and destroy them. Compared to this universal and deep- 
rooted conviction, the belief in the existence oi the 


spirits of the dead would seem to exercise but little 
influence on the life of these people. Contrary to the 
general attitude of savages towards the souls of the 
departed, they are reported to be almost completely 
devoid of any fear of ghosts. They believe, indeed, 
that the ghosts return to their villages once a year to 
partake of the great annual feast ; but " in general the 
spirits do not influence human beings very much, for 
better or worse" ; "there is nothing of the mutual inter- 
action, of the intimate collaboration between man and 
spirit which are the essence of religious cult." This 
conspicuous predominance of magic over religion, 
at least over the worship of the dead, is a very notable 
feature in the culture of a people so comparatively high 
in the scale of savagery as the Trobriand Islanders. It 
furnishes a fresh proof of the extraordinary strength and 
tenacity of the hold which this world-wide delusion has 
had, and still has, upon the human mind. 

We shall doubtless learn much as to the relation of 
magic and religion among the Trobrianders from the full 
report of Dr. Malinowski's researches in the islands. 
From the patient observation which he has devoted to a 
single institution, and from the wealth of details with 
which he has illustrated it, we may judge of the extent 
and value of the larger work which he has in preparation. 
It promises to be one of the completest and most 
scientific accounts ever given of a savage people. 


The Temple, London, 
jth March, 1922. 


ETHNOLOGY is in the sadly ludicrous, not to say tragic, 
position, that at the very moment when it begins to put 
its workshop in order, to forge its proper tools, to start 
ready for work on its appointed task, the material of its 
stud}' melts away with hopeless rapidity. Just now, 
when the methods and aims of scientific field ethnology 
have taken shape, when men fully trained for the work 
have begun to travel into savage countries and study 
their inhabitants these die away under our very eyes. 

The research which has been done on native races by 
men of academic training has proved beyond doubt and 
cavil that scientific, methodic inquiry can give us results 
far more abundant and of better quality than those 
of even the best amateur's work. Most, though not all, 
of the modern scientific accounts have opened up quite 
new and unexpected aspects of tribal life. They have 
given us, in clear outline, the picture of social insti- 
tutions often surprisingly vast and complex ; they have 
brought before us the vision of the native as he is, in his 
religious and magical beliefs and practices. They have 
allowed us to penetrate into his mind far more deeply 
than we have ever done before. From this new material, 
scientifically hall-marked, students of comparative 
Ethnology have already drawn some very important 
conclusions on the origin of human customs, beliefs and 
institutions ; on the history of cultures, and their spread 
and contact ; on the laws of human behaviour in society, 
and of the human mind. 

The hope of gaining a new vision of savage humanity 
through the labours of scientific specialists open; out 
like a mirage, vanishing almost as soon as perceived. 


For though at present, there is still a large number of 
native communities available for scientific study, within 
a generation or two, they or their cultures will have practi- 
cally disappeared. The need for energetic work is urgent, 
and the time is short. Nor, alas, up to the present, has 
any adequate interest been taken by the pubUc in these 
studies. The number of workers is small, the encourage- 
ment they receive scanty. I feel therefore no need to 
justify an ethnological contribution which is the result 
of specialised research in the field. 

In this volume I give an account of one phase of savage 
life only, in describing certain forms of inter-tribal, trading 
relations among the natives of New Guinea. This 
account has been culled, as a preliminary monograph, 
from Ethnographic material, covering the whole extent 
of the tribal culture of one district. One of the first 
conditions of acceptable Ethnographic work certainly is 
that it should deal with the totality of all social, cultural 
and psychological aspects of the community, for they are 
so interwoven that not one can be understood without 
taking into consideration all the others. The reader of 
this monograph will clearly see that, though its main 
theme is economic for it deals with commercial enter- 
prise, exchange and trade constant reference has to be 
made to social organisation, the power of magic, to 
mythology and folklore, and indeed to all other aspects 
as well as the main one. 

The geographical area of which the book treats is 
limited to the Archipelagoes lying off the eastern end of 
New Guinea. Even within this, the main field of research 
was in one district, that of the Trobriand Islands. This, 
however, has been studied minutely. I have lived in that 
one archipelago for about two years, in the course of three 
expeditions to New Guinea, during which time I naturally 
acquired a thorough knowledge of the language. I did 
my work entirely alone, living for the greater part of the 
time right in the villages. I therefore had constantly the 
daily life of the natives before my eyes, while accidental, 
dramatic occurrences, deaths, quarrels, village brawls, 


public and ceremonial events, could not escape my 

In the present state of Ethnography, when so much has 
still to be done in paving the way for forthcoming research 
and in fixing its scope, each new contribution ought to 
justify its appearance in several points. It ought to show 
some advance in method ; it ought to push research 
beyond its previous limits in depth, in width, or in both ; 
finally, it ought to endeavour to present its results in a 
manner exact, but not dry. The specialist interested in 
method, in reading this work, will find set out in the 
Introduction, Divisions II-IX and in Chapter XVIII, 
the exposition of my points of view and efforts in this 
direction. The reader who is concerned with results, 
rather than with the way of obtaining them, will find in 
Chapters IV to XXI a consecutive narrative of the Kula 
expeditions, and the various associated customs and 
beliefs. The student who is interested, not only in the 
narrative, but in the ethnographic background for it, and 
a clear definition of the institution, will find the first in 
Chapters I and II, and the latter in Chapter III. 

To Mr. Robert Mond I tender my sincerest thanks. 
It is to his generous endowment that I owe the possibility 
of carrying on for several years the research of which the 
present volume is a partial result. To Mr. Atlee Hunt, 
C.M.G., Secretary of the Home and Territories Depart- 
ment of the Commonwealth of Australia, I am indebted 
for the financial assistance of the Department, and also 
for much help given on the spot. In the Trobriands, 
I was immensely helped in my work by Mr. B. Hancock, 
pearl trader, to whom I am grateful not only for assis- 
tance and services, but for many acts of friendship. 

Much of the argument in this book has been greatly 
improved by the criticism given me by my friend, Mr. 
Paul Khuner, of Vienna, an expert in the practical 
affairs of modern industry and a highly competent thinker 
on economic matters. Professor L. T. Hobhouse has 
kindly read the proofs and given me valuable advi :e on 
several points. 


Sir James Frazer, by writing his Preface, has enhanced 
the value of this volume beyond its merit and it is not only 
a great honour and advantage for me to be introduced 
by him, but also a special pleasure, for my first love for 
ethnology is associated with the reading of the " Golden 
Bough," then in its second edition. 

Last, not least, I wish to mention Professor C. G. 
Seligman, to whom this book is dedicated. The initiative 
of my expedition was given by him and I owe him more 
than I can express for the encouragement and scientific 
counsel which he has so generously given me during the 
progress of my work in New Guinea. 


El Boquin, 

Icod de los Viuos, 

April, 1921. 


IT is in the nature of the research, that an Ethnographer has 
to rely upon the assistance of others to an extent much greater 
than is the case with other scientific workers. I have therefore 
to express in this special place my obligations to the many who 
have helped me. As said in the Preface, financially I owe mo^t 
to Mr. Robert Mond. who made my work possible by bestowing 
on me the Robert Mond Travelling Scholarship (University of 
London) of 250 per annum for five years (for 1914 and for 1917 
-1920). I was substantially helped by a grant of 250 from 
the Home and Territories Department of Australia, obtained 
by the good offices of Mr. Atlee Hunt, C.M.G. The London 
School of Economics awarded me the Constance Hutchinson 
Scholarship of 100 yearly for two years, 1915-1916. Professor 
Scligman, to whom in this, as in other matters I owe so much, 
besides helping me in obtaining all the other grants, gave himself 
100 towards the cost of the expedition and equipped me with 
a camera, a phonograph, anthropometric instruments and other 
paraphernalia of ethnographic work. I went out to Australia 
with the British Association for the Advancement of Science 
in 1914, as a guest, and at the expense, of the Commonwealth 
Government of Australia. 

It may be interesting for intending field-workers to observe 
that I carried out my ethnographic research for six years 
1914 to 1920 making three expeditions to the field of my work, 
and devoting the intervals between expeditions to the working 
out of my material and to the study of special literature, on 
little more than 250 a year. I defrayed out of this, not only ail 
the expenses of travel and research, such as fares, wages to 
native servants, payments of interpreters, but I was also able to 
collect a fair amount of ethnographic specimens, of which part 
has been presented to the Melbourne Museum as the Robert 
Mond Collection. This would not have been possible for me, 
had I not received much help from residents in New Guinea. 
My friend, Mr. B. Hancock, of Gusaweta, Trobriand Islands, 
allowed me to use his house and store as base for my gear and 
provisions ; he lent me his cutter on various occasions and pro- 
vided me with a home, where I could always repair in need or 
sickness. He helped me in my photographic work, and gave me a 
good number of his own photographic plates, of which several are 
reproduced in this book (Plates XI, XXXVII, and L-LII). 

Other pearl traders and buyers of the Trobriands were also 
very kind to me, especially M. and Mme. Raphael Brudo, of 


Paris, Messrs. C. and G. Auerbach, and the late Mr. Mick George, 
all of whom helped me in various ways and extended to me their 
kind hospitality. 

In niy interim studies in Melbourne, I received much help 
from the staff of the excellent Public Library of Victoria, for 
which I have to thank the Librarian, Mr. E. La Touche Armstrong, 
my friend Mr. E. Pitt, Mr. Cooke and others. 

Two maps and two plates are reproduced by kind permission 
of Professor Seligman from his " Melanesians of British New 
Guinea/' I have to thank the Editor of Man (Captain T. A. 
Joyce) for his permission to use here again the plates which 
were previously published in that paper. 

Mr. William Swan Stallybrass, Senior Managing Director of 
Messrs. Geo. Routledge & Sons, Ltd., has spared no trouble in 
meeting all my wishes as to scientific details in the publication 
of this book, for which I wish to express my sincere thanks 


The native names and words in this book are written according 
to the simple rules, recommended by the Royal Geographical 
Society and the Royal Anthropological Institute. That is, 
the vowels are to be pronounced as in Italian and the consonants 
as in English. This spelling suits the sounds of the Melanesian 
languages of New Guinea sufficiently well. The apostrophe placed 
between two vowels indicates that they should be pronounced 
separately and not merged into a diphthong. The accent is almost 
always on the penultimate, rarely on the anti-penultimate. 
All the syllables must be pronounced clearly and distinctly. 






I Sailing, and trading in the South Seas ; the 
Kula. II Method in Ethnography. Ill- 
Starting field work. Some perplexing difficul- 
ties. Three conditions of success. IV Life 
in a tent among the natives. Mechanism of 
" getting in touch " with them. V Active 
methods of research. Order and consistency in 
savage cultures. Methodological consequences 
of this truth. VI Formulating the principles 
of tribal constitution and of the anatomy of culture. 
Method ot inference from statistic accumulation 
of concrete data. Uses of synoptic charts. VII 
Presentation of the intimate touches of native 
life ; of types of behaviour. Method of system- 
atic fixing of impressions ; of detailed, consecu- 
tive records. Importance of personal participa 
tion in native life. VIII Recording of stereo- 
typed manners of thinking and feeling. Corpus 
inscriptionum Kiriwinensium IX Summary of 
argument. The native's vision of his world - I 



I Racial divisions in Eastern New Guinea. 
Seligman's classification. The Kula natives. 
II Sub-divisions of the Kula district. Ill 
Scenery at the Eastern end of New Guinea. 
Villages of the S. Massim ; their customs and 
social institutions. IV The d'Entrecasteaux 
Archipelago. The tribes of Dobu. The mytho- 
logical associations of their country. Some of 
their customs and institutions. Sorcery. A 
vision on Sarubwoyna beach. V Sailing North. 
The Amphlett Group. Savage monopolists - 27 




I Arrival in the coral Islands. First impression 
of the native. Some significant appearances and 
their deeper meaning. II Position of women ; 
their life and conduct before and after marriage. 
Ill Further exploration in the villages. A cross 
country walk. Gardens and gardening. IV 
The native's working power ; their motives and 
incentives to work. Magic and work. A 
digression on Primitive Economics. V Chief- 
tainship ' power through wealth ; a plutocratic 
community. List of the various provinces and 
and political divisions in the Trobriands. VI 
Totemism, the solidarity of clans and the bonds 
of kinship. VII Spirits of the dead. The 
overweening importance of magic. Black magic. 
The prowling sorcerers and the flying witches. 
The malevolent visitors from the South, and 
epidemics. VIII The Eastern neighbours of 
of the Trobrianders. The remaining districts of 
the Kula ______ -49 


I A concise definition of the Kula. II Its 
economic character. Ill The articles exchanged ; 
the conception of vaygu'a. IV The main rules 
and aspects of the Kula : the sociological aspect 
(partnership) ; direction of movement ; nature 
of Kula ownership ; the differential and integral 
effect of these rules. V The act of exchange ; 
its regulations ; the light it throws on the acquisi- 
tive and " communistic " tendencies of the 
natives ; its concrete outlines ; the sollicitory 
gifts. VI The associated activities and the 
secondary aspects of the Kula : construction of 
canoes ; subsidiary trade their true relation 
to the Kula ; the ceremonial, mythology and 
magic associated with the Kula ; the mortuary 
taboos and distributions, in their relation to the 
Kula _______ 81 


I The value and importance of a canoe to a 
native. Its appearance, the impressions and 
emotions it arouses in those who use or own it. 
The atmosphere of romance which surrounds it 



for the native. II Analysis of its construction, 
in relation to its function. The three types of 
canoes in the Trobriand Islands. Ill V 
Sociology of a large canoe (masawa). Ill (A) 
Social organisation of labour in constructing a 
canoe ; the division of functions ; the magical 
regulation of work. IV (B) Sociology of canoe 
ownership ; the /o/^-relationship ; the toliwaga, 
" master " or " owner " of a canoe ; the four 
privileges and functions of a toliwaga. V 
(C) The social division of functions in manning 
and sailing a canoe. Statistical data about the 
Trobriand shipping - - - - - 105 


I Construction of canoes as part of the Kula 
proceedings. Magic and mythology. The pre- 
paratory and the ceremonial stage of construction 
II The first stage : expelling the wood sprite 
Tokway ; transport of the log ; the hollowing- 
out of the log and the associated magic. Ill 
The second stage : the inaugural rite of Kula magic ; 
the native at grips with problems of construction ; 
the wayugo creeper ; the magical spell uttered 
over it ; caulking ; the three magical exorcisms. 
IV Some general remarks about the two stages 
of canoe-building and the concomitant magic. 
Bulubwalata (evil magic) of canoes. The orna- 
mental prowboards. The Dobuan and the Mur- 
uwan types of overseas canoe - - - 124 


I The procedure and magic at launching. The 
trial run (tasasona). Account of the launching 
and tasasoria seen on the beach of Kualukuba. 
Reflections on the decay of customs under Euro- 
pean influence. II Digression on the sociology of 
work : organisation of labour ; forms of commumal 
labour ; paymc nt for work. Ill The custom 
of ceremonial visiting (kabigidoya) ; local trade, 
done on such expeditions. IV VII Digression 
on gifts, payments, and exchange. V Attitude 
of the native towards wealth. Desire of display. 
Enhancement of social prestige through wealth. 
The motives of accumulating food stuffs. Tho 



vilamalya (magic of plenty). The handling of 
yams. Psychology of eating. Value of manu- 
factured goods, psychologically analysed. V 
Motives for exchange. Giving, as satisfaction of 
vanity and as display of power. Fallacy of the 
" economically isolated individual " or " house- 
hold." Absence of gain in exchange. VI 
Exchange of gifts and barter. List of gifts, pay- 
ments and commercial transactions : i. Pure 
gifts ; 2. customary payments, repaid irregu- 
larly and without strict equivalents ; 3. pay- 
ments for services rendered ; 4. gifts returned 
in strictly equivalent form ; 5. exchange of 
material goods against privileges, titles and non- 
material possessions ; 6. ceremonial barter with 
deferred payment ; 7. trade pure and simple. 
VI Economic duties corresponding to various 
social ties ; table of eight classes of social relation- 
ship, characterised by definite economic obliga- 
tions ______ 146 


Scene laid in Sinaketa. The local chiefs. Stir 
in the village. The social differentiation of the 
sailing party. Magical rites, associated with the 
preparing and loading of a canoe. The sulu- 
mwoya rite. The magical bundle (lilava). The 
compartments of a canoe and the gebobo spell. 
Farewells on the beach - - - - - 195 


I The definition of an uvalaku (ceremonial, com- 
petitive expedition). II The sagali (ceremonial 
distribution) on Muwa. Ill The magic of 
saijing _ _ _ _ _ 207 


I The landscape. Mythological geography of the 
regions beyond. II Sailing : the winds ; 
navigation ; technique of sailing a canoe and its 
dangers. Ill The customs and taboos of sailing. 
Privileged position of certain sub-clans. IV 
The beliefs in dreadful monsters lurking in the 
sea _______ 219 



I The flying witches, mulukwausi or yoyova : 
essentials of the belief ; initiation and education 
of a yoyova (witch) ; secrecy surrounding this con- 
dition ; manner of practising this witch-craft ; 
actual cases. II The flying witches at sea 
and in ship-wreck. Other dangerous agents. 
The kayga'u magic ; its modes of operation. 
Ill Account of the preparatory rites of kayga'u. 
Some incantations quoted. IV The story of 
ship-wreck and rescue. V The spell of the 
rescuing giant fish. The myth and the magical 
formula of Tokulubwaydoga. - - - - 237 


I Arrival in Gumasila. Example of a Kula 
conversation. Trobrianders on long visits in the 
Amphletts. II Sociology of the Kula : i. socio- 
logical limitations to participation in the Kula; 
2. relation of Partnership ; 3. entering the Kula 
relationship ; 4. participation of women in the 
Kula. Ill The Natives of the Amphletts : their 
industries and trade ; pottery ; importing the 
clay ; technology of pot-making ; commercial 
relations with the surrounding districts. IV 
Drift of migrations and cultural influences in this 
province _______ 267 


I Sailing under the lee of Koytabu. The canni- 
bals of the unexplored jungle. Trobriand tradi- 
tions and legends about them. The history and 
song of Gumagabu. II Myths and reality : 
significance imparted to landscape by myth ; 
line of distinction between the mythical and the 
actual occurrences ; magical power and mythical 
atmosphere ; the three strata of Trobriand myths. 
Ill V The myths of the Kula. Ill Survey of 
Kula mythology and its geographical distribu- 
tion. The story of Gere'u of Muyuwa (Wood- 
lark Island). The two stories of Tokosikuna 
of Digumenu and Gumasila. IV The Kudayuri 
myth of the flying canoe. Commentary . and 
analysis of this myth. Association between the 


canoe and the flying witches. Mythology and 
the Lukuba clan. V The "myth of Kasabway- 
bwayreta and the necklace Gumakarakedakeda. 
Comparison of these stories. VI Sociological 
analysis of the myths : influence of the Kula myths 
upon native outlook ; myth and custom. VII 
The relation between myth and actuality restated. 
VIII The story, the natural monuments and 
the religious ceremonial of the mythical per- 
sonalities Atu'a'ine, Aturamo'a and their sister 
Sinatemubadiye'i. Other rocks of similar tradi- 
tional nature - - - - - - 290 


I The halt on the Beach. The beauty magic 
Some incantations quoted. The spell of the 
ta'uya (conch shell). II The magical onset on 
the Koya. Psychological analysis of this magic. 
Ill The Gwara (taboo) and the Ka'ubana'i 
spell -------- 334 


I Reception in Dobu. II The main transactions 
of the Kula and the subsidiary gifts and exchanges : 
some general reflections on the driving force of the 
Kula ; regulations of the main transaction ; 
vaga (opening gift) and yotile (return gift) ; 
the sollicitory gifts (pokala, kwaypolu, kaributu, 
korotomna) ; intermediary gifts (basi) and final 
clinching gift (kudu) ; the other articles some- 
times exchanged in the main transaction of 
the Kula (doga, samakupa, beku) ; commercial 
honour and ethics of the Kula. Ill The Kula 
proceedings in Dobu : wooing the partner ; 
kwoygapani magic ; the subsidiary trade ; roam- 
ings of the Boy o wans in the Dobu district - - 350 


I Visits made on the return trip. Some articles 
acquired. II The spondylus shell fishing in 
Sanaroa lagoon and in home waters : its general 
character and magic ; the Kaloma myth ; con- 
secutive account of the technicalities, ceremonial 


and magic of the diving for the shell. Ill 
Technology, economics and sociology of the pro- 
duction of the discs and necklaces from the shell. 
IV Tanarere, display of the haul. Arrival 
of the party home to Sinaketa - 366 

I The uvalaku (ceremonial expedition) from Dobu 
to Southern Boyowa : the preparations in Dobu and 
Sanaroa ; preparations in Gumasila ; the excite- 
ment, the spreading and convergence of news ; 
arrival of the Dobuan fleet in Nabwageta. II 
Preparations in Sinaketa for the reception of the 
visiting party. The Dobuans arrive. The scene 
at Kaykuyawa point. The ceremonial reception. 
Speeches and gifts. The three days' sojurn 
of the Dobuans in Sinaketa. Manner of living. 
Exchange of gifts and barter. Ill Return 
home. Results shown at the tanarere - - 376 


I The subject matter of Boyowan magic. 
Its association with all the vital activities and 
with the unaccountable aspects of reality. II 
V The native conception of magic. II The 
methods of arriving at its knowledge. Ill 
Native views about the original sources of magic. 
Its primeval character. Inadmissability to the 
native of spontaneous generation in magic. 
Magic a power of man and not a force of nature. 
Magic and myth and their super-normal atmo- 
sphere. IV The magical acts : spell and rite ; 
relation between these two factors ; spells 
uttered directly without a concomitant rite ; 
spells accompanied by simple rite of impregna- 
tion ; spells accompanied by a rite of trans- 
ference ; spells accompanied by offerings and 
invocations ; summary of this survey. V 
Place where magic is stored in the human anatomy. 
VI Condition of the performer. Taboos and 
observances. Sociological position. Actual 
descent and magical filiation. VII Definition 
of systematic magic. The " systems " of canoe 
magic and Kula magic. VIII Supernormal or 
supernatural character of magic; emotional 
reaction of the natives to certain forms of magic ; 


the kariyala (magical portent) ; role of ancestral 
spirits ; native terminplogy. IX Ceremonial 
setting of magic. X Institution of taboo, sup- 
ported by magic. Kaytubutabu and kaytapaku. 
XI Purchase ol certain forms of magic. Pay- 
ments for magical services. XII Brief 
summary - - - - - - % - 392 


I Study of linguistic data in magic to throw 
light on native ideas about the power of words. 
1 1 The text of the wayugo spell with literal trans- 
lation. Ill Linguistic analysis of its u'ula (exor- 
dium). IV Vocal technique of reciting a spell. 
Analysis of the tapwana (main part) and dogina 
(final part). V The text of the Sulumwoya 
spell and its analysis. VI XII Linguistic 
data referring to the other spells mentioned in this 
volume and some general inferences. VI The 
tokway spell and the opening phrases of the canoe 
spells. VII The tapwana (main parts) of the 
canoe spells. VIII The end parts (dogina) of 
these spells. IX The u'ula of the mwasila 
spells. X The tapwana and the dogina of these 
spells. XI The kayga'u spells. XII Sum- 
mary of the results of this linguistic survey. 
XIII Substances used in these magical rites. 
XIV XVIII Analysis of some non-magical 
linguistic texts, to illustrate ethnographic 
method and native way of thinking. XIV 
General remarks about certain aspects of 
method. XV Text No. i, its literal and free 
translation. XVI Commentary. XVII Texts 
No. 2 and 3 translated and commented upon - 428 


I To'uluwa, the chief of Kiriwina, on a visit 
in Sinaketa. The decay of his power. Some 
melancholy reflections about the folly of destroy- 
ing the native order of things and of under- 
mining native authority as now prevailing. II 
The division into " Kula communities ; " the 
three types of Kula, with respect to this division. 
The overseas Kula. Ill The inland Kula 



between two " Kula communities " and within 
such a unit. IV The "Kula communities" in 
Boyowa (Trobriand Islands) - - - 464 


I, II Account of an expedition from Kinwina 
to Kitava. I Fixing dates and preparing 
districts. II Preliminaries of the journey. 
Departure from Kaulukuba Beach. Sailing. 
Analogies and differences between these expedi- 
tions and those of the Sinaketans to Dobu. 
Entering the village. The youlawada custom. 
Sojourn in Kitava and return. Ill The So'i 
(mortuary feast) in the Eastern district (Kitava 
to Muyuwa) and its association with the Kula ~ 47^ 


I Rapid survey of the routes between Wood- 
lark Island (Murua or Muyuwa) and the Engineer 
group and between this latter and Dobu. II 
The ordinary trade carried on between these 
communities. Ill An offshoot of the Kula ; 
trading expeditions between the Western Tro- 
briand (Kavataria and Kayleula) and the 
Western d'Entrecasteaux. IV Production of 
mwali (armshells) V Some other offshoots and 
leakages of the Kula ring. Entry of the Kula 
vaygu'a into the Ring. - _ _ - - 40^ 

INDEX --------510 










NU'AGASI ------ 


OMARAKANA --------6 


ISLAND) -------- -7 





UKWA - -------- 48 



WOMAN) --------- 52 




XVI ARMSHELLS -_____-_ 80 





XXI A MAS AW A CANOE ------- 106 













(SAGALI) __-_---_ 170 


VEGETABLES FOR FISH) - - - - - 171 



XXXIX A LOADED CANOE - - - - - - -197 













RITES OF MWASILA ------ 334 








BEACH ________ 388 


NEAR THE SHORE ------- 388 






LXI BRINGING IN A SOU LAV A - - - - - 471 



LXIV NAGEGA CANOE -------- 49 6 






V THE KULA RING ----- 82 



BY THE WRITER ------ - 16 


TO SINAKETA, 1918 - - - - - - -381 


ING ACTIVITIES ___-_- 415-418 



MAP I The native names and their spelling on this and the following map conform to the 

traditional nomenclature to be found on charts and old maps. Maps III-V show the 

native names as ascertained by myself and phonetically spelled. 



coastal populations of the South Sea Islands, with very 
JL few exceptions, are, or were before their extinction, expert 
navigators and traders. Several of them had evolved excellent 
types of large sea-going canoes, and used to embark in them 
on distant trade expeditions or raids of war and conquest. 
The Papuo-Melanesians, who inhabit the coast and the out- 
lying islands of New Guinea, are no exception to this rule. In 
general they are daring sailors, industrious manufacturers, 
and keen traders. The manufacturing centres of important 
articles, such as pottery, stone implements, canoes, fine baskets, 
valued ornaments, are localised in several places, according to 
the .skill of the inhabitants, their inherited tribal tradition, 
and special facilities offered by the district ; thence they are 
traded over wide areas, sometimes travelling more than 
hundreds of miles. 

Definite forms of exchange along definite trade routes are 
to be found established between the various tribes. A most 
remarkable form of intertribal trade is that obtaining between 
the Motu of Port Moresby and the tribes of the Papuan Gulf. 
The Motu sail for hundreds of miles in heavy, unwieldy canoes, 
called lakatoi, which are provided with the characteristic 
ciab-claw sails. They bring pottery and shell ornaments, in 
olden days, stone blades, to Gulf Papuans, from whom they 
obtain in exchange sago and the heavy dug-outs, which are 
used afterwards by the Motu for the construction of their 
lakatoi canoes.* 

* The Am, as these expeditions are called in Motuan, have been described 
with a great wealth of detail and clearness of outline by Captain F. Barton, 
in C. G. Seligman's "The Melanesians of British New Guinea," Cambridge, 
1910, Chapter viii. 


Further East, on the South coast, there lives the industrious, 
sea-faring population of the Mailu, who link the East End of 
New Guinea with the central coast tribes by means of annual 
trading expeditions.* Finally, the natives of the islands 
and archipelagoes, scattered around the East End, are in 
constant trading relations with one another. We possess in 
Professor Seligman's book an excellent description Qf the 
subject, especially of the nearer trades routes between the 
various islands inhabited by the Southern Massim.f There 
exists, however, another, a very extensive and highly complex 
trading system, embracing with its ramifications, not only the 
islands near the East End, but also the Louisiades, Woodlark 
Island, the Trobriand Archipelago, and the d'Entrecasteaux 
group ; it penetrates into the mainland of New Guinea, and 
exerts an indirect influence over several outlying districts, 
such as Rossel Island, and some parts of the Northern and 
Southern coast of New Guinea. This trading system, the Kula, 
is the subject I am setting out to describe in this volume, and 
it will be seen that it is an economic phenomenon of considera- 
able theoretical importance. It looms paramount in the tribal 
life of those natives who live within its circuit, and its impor- 
tance is fully realised by the tribesmen themselves, whose ideas, 
ambitions, desires and vanities are very much bound up with 
the Kula. 


Before proceeding to the account of the Kula, it will be well 
to give a description of the methods used in the collecting of 
the ethnographic material. The results of scientific research 
in any branch of learning ought to be presented in a manner 
absolutely candid and above board. No one would dream 
of making an experimental contribution to physical or chemical 
science, without giving a detailed account of all the arrange- 
ments of the experiments ; an exact description of the apparatus 
used ; of the manner in which the observations were conducted ; 
of their number ; of the length of time devoted to them, and 
of the degree of approximation with which each measurement 
was made. In less exact sciences, as in biology or geology, 

* Cf. " The Mailu/' by B. Malinowski, in Transactions of the R. Society 
of S. Australia, 1915 ; Chapter iv. 4, pp. 612 to 629. 

f Op. cit. Chapter xl. 


this cannot be done as rigorously, but every student will do 
his best to bring home to the reader all the conditions in which 
the experiment or the observations were made. In Ethno- 
graphy, where a candid account of such data is perhaps even 
more necessary, it has unfortunately in the past not always 
been supplied with sufficient generosity, and many writers do 
not ply the full searchlight of methodic sincerity, as they move 
among their facts and produce them before us out of complete 

It would be easy to quote works of high repute, and with a 
scientific hall-mark on them, in which wholesale generalisations 
are laid down before us, and we are not informed at all by what 
actual experiences the writers have reached their conclusion. 
No special chapter or paragraph is devoted to describing to us 
the conditions under which observations were made and infor- 
mation collected. I consider that only such ethnographic 
sources are of unquestionable scientific value, in which we can 
clearly draw the line between, on the one hand, the results of 
direct observation and of native statements and interpretations, 
and on the other, the inferences of the author, based on his 
common sense and psycholgical insight.* Indeed, some such 
survey, as that contained in the table, given below (Div. VI of 
this chapter) ought to be forthcoming, so that at a glance the 
reader could estimate with precision the degree of the writer's 
personal acquaintance with the facts which he describes, and 
form an idea under what conditions information had been 
obtained from the natives. 

Again, in historical science, no one could expect to be 
seriously treated if he made any mystery of his sources and 
spoke of the past as if he knew it by divination. In Ethno- 
graphy, the writer is his own chronicler and the historian at 
the same time, while his sources are no doubt easily accessible, 
but also supremely elusive and complex ; they are not 
embodied in fixed, material documents, but in the behaviour 
and in the memory of living men. In Ethnography, the 
distance is often enormous between the brute material of 

* On this point of method again, we are indebted to the Cambridge School 
of Anthropology for having introduced the really scientific way of dealing with 
the question. More especially in the writings of Haddon, Rivers and Seligman, 
the distinction between inference and observation is always clearly drawn, and 
we can visualise with perfect precision the conditions under which the work 
was done. 


information as it is presented to the student in his own obser- 
vations, in native statement, in the kaleidoscope of tribal life 
and the final authoritative presentation of the results. The 
Ethnographer has to traverse this distance in the laborious 
years between the moment when he sets foot upon a native 
beach, and makes his first attempts to get into touch with the 
natives, and the time when he writes down the final version of 
his results. A brief outline of an Ethnographer's tribulations, 
as lived through by myself, may throw more light on the 
question, than any long abstract discussion could do, 


Imagine yourself suddenly set down surrounded by all 
your gear, alone on a tropical' beach close to a native village, 
while the launch or dinghy which has brought you sails away 
out of sight. Since you take up your abode in the compound of 
some neighbouring white man, trader or missionary, you have 
nothing to do, but to start at once on your ethnographic work. 
Imagine further that you are a beginner, without previous 
experience, with nothing to guide you and no one to help you. 
For the white man is temporarily absent, or else unable or 
unwilling to waste any of his time on you. This exactly 
describes my first initiation into field work on the south coast 
of New Guinea. I well remember the long visits I paid to the 
villages during the first weeks ; the feeling of hopelessness and 
despair after many obstinate but futile attempts had entirely 
failed to bring me into real touch with the natives, or supply 
me with any material. I had periods of despondency, when I 
buried myself in the reading ot novels, as a man might take 
to drink in a fit of tropical depression and boredom. 

Imagine yourself then, making your first entry into the 
village, alone or in company with your white cicerone. Some 
natives flock round you, especially if they smell tobacco. 
Others, the more dignified and elderly, remain seated where they 
are. Your white companion has his routine way of treating the 
natives, and he neither understands, nor is very much concerned 
with the manner in which you, as an ethnographer, will have 
to approach them. * The first visit leaves you with a hopeful 
feeling that when you return alone, things will be easier. Such 
was my hope at least. 


I came back duly, and soon gathered an audience around 
me. A few compliments in pidgin-English on both sides, some 
tobacco changing hands, induced an atmosphere of mutual 
amiability. I tried then to proceed to business. First, to 
begin with subjects which might arouse no suspicion, I started 
to " do " technology, A few natives were engaged in manu- 
facturing some object or other. It was easy to look at it and 
obtain the names of the tools, and even some technical expres- 
sions about the proceedings, but there the matter ended. It 
must be borne in mind that pidgin-English is a very imperfect 
instrument for expressing one's ideas, and that before one gets 
a good training in framing questions and understanding answers 
one has the uncomfortable feeling that free communication in 
it with the natives will never be attained ; and I was quite 
unable to enter into any more detailed or explicit conversation 
with them at first. I knew well that the best remedy for this 
was to collect concrete data, and accordingly I took a village 
census, wrote down genealogies, drew up plans and collected 
the terms of kinship. But all this remained dead material, 
which led no further into the understanding of real native 
mentality or behaviour, since I could neither procure a 
good native interpretation of any of these items, nor get 
what could be called the hang of tribal life. As to obtaining 
their ideas about religion, and magic, their beliefs in sorcery 
and spirits, nothing was forthcoming except a few superficial 
items of folk-lore, mangled by being forced into pidgin English. 

Information which I received from some white residents in 
the district, valuable as it was in itself, was more discouraging 
than anything else with regard to my own work. Here were 
men who had lived for years in the place with constant oppor- 
tunities of observing the natives and communicating with them, 
and who yet hardly knew one thing about them really well. 
How could I therefore in a few months or a year, hope to over- 
take and go beyond them ? Moreover, the manner in which my 
white informants spoke about the natives and put their views 
was, naturally, that of untrained minds, unaccustomed to 
formulate their thoughts with any degree of consistency and 
precision. And they were for the most part, naturally enough, 
full of the biassed and pre-judged opinions inevitable in the 
average practical man, whether administrator, missionary, or 
trader ; yet so strongly repulsive to a mind striving after the 


objective, scientific view of things. The habit of treating with 
a self-satisfied frivolity what is really serious to the ethno- 
grapher ; the cheap rating of what to him is a scientific treasure, 
that is to say, the native's cultural and mental peculiarities and 
independence these features, so well known in the inferior 
amateur's writing, I found in the tone of the majority of white 

Indeed, in my first piece of Ethnographic research on the 
South coast, it was not until I was alone in the district that I 
began to make some headway ; and, at any rate, I found out 
where lay the secret of effective field-work. What is then this 
ethnographer's magic, by which he is able to evoke the real 
spirit of the natives, the true picture of tribal life ? As usual, 
success can only be obtained by a patient and systematic 
Application of a number of rules of common sense and well- 
known scientific principles, and not by the discovery of any 
marvellous short-cut leading to the desired results without 
effort or trouble. The principles of method can be grouped 
under three main headings ; first of all, naturally, the student 
must possess real scientific aims, and know the values and 
criteria of modern ethnography. Secondly, he ought to put 
himself in good conditions of work, that is, in the main, to live 
without other white men, right among the natives. Finally, 
he has to apply a number of special methods of collecting, 
manipulating and fixing his evidence. A few words must be 
said about these three foundation stones of field work, beginning 
with the second as the most elementary. 


Proper conditions for ethnographic work. These, as said, 
consist mainly in cutting oneself off from the company of other 
white men, and remaining in as close contact with the natives 
as possible, which really can only be achieved by camping right 
in their villages (see Plates I and II). It is very nice to have 
a base in a white man's compound for the stores, and to know 
there is a refuge there in times of sickness and surfeit of native. 
But it must be far enough away not to become a permanent 
milieu in which you live and from which you emerge at fixed 

* I may note at once that there were a few delightful exceptions to that, 
to mention only my friends Billy Hancock in the Trobriands ; M. Raffael 
Brudo, another pearl trader ; and the missionary, Mr. M. K. Gilmour. 


This illustrates the manner of life among the natives, described in l)iv. IV, Note (with 
cfererice to <ihs. IV and \') the dug-out log of a large canoe beside the tent, and the 
canoe, beached under palm leaves to the left 

To'uluwa, the present chief, is in front (cf, Oi, If, Div. V) ; to the left, the- 

is the Ethnographer's tent (see Div. IV), with a group of natives squatting in f root of it, 



An everyday scene, showing groups of people at their ordinary occupations. (See Oivs IV 

and VIJl,) 



A complex, but well-deflncd, act of a distribution) is going on, There is a 

definite of sociological, economic and ceremonial at the of the 

apparently confused proceedings. Divs. IV and V.) 


hours only to " do the village/' It should not even be near 
enough to fly to at any moment for recreation. For the native 
is not the natural companion for a white man, and after you 
have been working with him for several hours, seeing how he 
does his garden's, or letting him tell you items of folk-lore, 
or discussing his customs, you will naturally hanker after the 
company of your own kind. But if you are alone in a village 
beyond reach of this, you go for a solitary walk for an hour or 
so, return again and then quite naturally seek out the natives' 
society, this time as a relief from loneliness, just as you would 
any other companionship. And by means of this natural 
intercourse, you learn to know him, and you become familiar 
with his customs and beliefs far better than when he is a paid, 
and often bored, informant. 

There is all the difference between a sporadic plunging into 
the company of natives, and being really in contact with them. 
What does this latter mean ? On the Ethnographer's side, it 
means that his life in the village, which at first is a strange, 
sometimes unpleasant, sometimes intensely interesting 
adventure, soon adopts quite a natural course very much in 
harmony with his surroundings. 

Soon after I had established myself in Omarakana (Tro- 
briand Islands), I began to take part, in a way, in the village 
life, to look forward to the important or festive events, to 
take personal interest in the gossip and the developments of the 
small village occurrences ; to wake up every morning to a day, 
presenting itself to me more or less as it does to the native. I 
would get out from under my mosquito net, to find around me 
the village life beginning to stir, or the people well advanced in 
their working day according*to the hour and also to the season, 
for they get up and begin their labours early or late, as work 
presses. As I went on my morning walk through the village, I 
could see intimate details of family life, of toilet, cooking, 
taking of meals ; I could see the arrangements for the day's 
work, people starting on their errands, or groups of men and 
women busy at some manufacturing tasks (see Plate III). 
Quarrels, jokes, family scenes, events usually trivial, some- 
times dramatic but always significant, formed the atmosphere 
of my daily life, as well as of theirs. It must be remembered 
that as the natives saw me constantly every day, they ceased to 
be interested or alarmed, or made self-conscious by my 


presence, and I ceased to be a disturbing element in the tribal 
life which I was to study, altering it by my very approach, as 
always happens with a new-comer to every savage community. 
In fact, as they knew that I would thrust my nose into every- 
thing, even where a well-mannered native would not dream of 
intruding, they finished by regarding me as part and parcel of 
their life, a necessary evil or nuisance, mitigated by^donations 
of tobacco. 

Later on in the day, whatever happened was within easy 
reach, and there was no possibility of its escaping my notice. 
Alarms about the sorcerer's approach in the evening, one or two 
big, really important quarrels and rifts within the community, 
cases of illness, attempted cures and deaths, magical rites 
which had to be performed, all these I had not to pursue, fearful 
of missing them, but they took place under my very eyes, at 
my own doorstep, so to speak (see Plate IV). And it must be 
emphasised whenever anything dramatic or important occurs it 
is essential to investigate it at the very moment of happen- 
ing, because the natives cannot but talk about it, are too 
excited to be reticent, and too interested to be mentally lazy 
in supplying details. Also, over and over again, I committed 
breaches of etiquette, which the natives, familiar enough with 
me, were not slow in pointing out. I had to learn how to 
behave, and to a certain extent, I acquired " the feeling " for 
native good and bad manners. With this, and with the 
capacity of enjoying their company and sharing some of their 
games and amusements, I began to feel that I was indeed in 
touch with the natives, and this is certainly the preliminary 
condition of being able to carry on successful field work. 


But the Ethnographer has not only to spread his nets in 
the right place, and wait for what will fall into them. He must 
be an active huntsman, and drive his quarry into them and 
follow it up to its most inaccessible lairs. And that leads us 
to the more active methods of pursuing ethnographic evidence. 
It has been mentioned at the end of Division III that the 
Ethnographer has to be inspired by the knowledge of the most 
modern results of scientific study, by its principles and aims. 
I shall not enlarge upon this subject, except by way of one 
remark, to avoid the possibility of misunderstanding. Good 


training in theory, and acquaintance with its latest results, is 
not identical with being burdened with " preconceived ideas." 
If a man sets out on an expedition, determined to prove certain 
hypotheses, if he is incapable of changing his views constantly 
and casting them off ungrudgingly under the pressure of 
evidence, needless to say his work will be worthless. But the 
more problems he brings with him into the field, the more he is 
in the habit of moulding his theories according to facts, and of 
seeing facts in their bearing upon theory, the better he is 
equipped for the work. Preconceived ideas are pernicious 
in any scientific work, but foreshadowed problems are the main 
endowment of a scientific thinker, and these problems are first 
revealed to the observer by his theoretical studies. 

In Ethnology the early efforts of Bastian, Tylor, Morgan, 
the German Volkerpsychologen have remoulded the older 
crude information of travellers, missionaries, etc., and have 
shown us the importance of applying deeper conceptions and 
discarding crude and misleading ones.* 

The concept of animism superseded that of " fetichism " or 
"devil-worship," both meaningless terms. The understanding 
of the classificatory systems of relationship paved the way for 
the brilliant, modern researches on native sociology in the 
field-work of the Cambridge school. The psychological 
analysis of the German thinkers has brought forth an abundant 
crop of most valuable information in the results obtained by 
the recent German expeditions to Africa, South America and 
the Pacific, while the theoretical works ol Frazer, Durkheim 
and others have already, and will no doubt still for a long time 
inspire field workers and lead them to new results. The field 
worker relies entirely upon inspiration from theory. Of course 
he may be also a theoretical thinker and worker, and there he 
can draw on himself for stimulus. But the two functions are 
separate, and in actual research they have to be separated 
both in time and conditions of work. 

As always happens when scientific interest turns towards 
and begins to labour on a field so far only prospected by the 
curiosity of amateurs, Ethnology has introduced law and order 
into what seemed chaotic and freakish. It has transformed 
for us the sensational, wild and unaccountable world of 

* According to a useful habit of the terminology of science, I use the 
word Ethnography for the empirical and descriptive results of the cience 
of Man, and the word Ethnology for speculative and comparative theories. 


" savages " into a number of well ordered communities, 
governed by law, behaving and thinking according to consistent 
principles. The word " savage," whatever association it might 
have had originally, connotes ideas of boundless liberty, of 
irregularity, of something extremely and extraordinarily quaint. 
In popular thinking, we imagine that the natives live on the 
bosom of Nature, more or less as they can and like, the prey of 
irregular, phantasmagoric beliefs and apprehensions. Modern 
science, on the contrary, shows that their social institutions have 
a very definite organisation, that they are governed by author- 
ity, law and order in their public and personal relations, while 
the latter are, besides, under the control of extremely complex 
ties of kinship and clanship. Indeed, we see them entangled 
in a mesh of duties, functions and privileges which correspond 
to an elaborate tribal, communal and kinship organisation 
(see Plate IV). Their beliefs and practices do not by any 
means lack consistency of a certain type, and their knowledge 
of the outer world is sufficient to guide them in many of their 
strenuous enterprises and activities. Their artistic pro- 
ductions again lack neither meaning nor beauty. 

It is a very far cry from the famous answer given long ago 
by a representative authority who, asked, what are the manners 
and customs of the natives, answered, " Customs none, manners 
beastly/' to the position of the modern Ethnographer . This 
latter, with his tables of kinship terms, genealogies, maps, 
plans and diagrams, proves an extensive and big organisation, 
shows the constitution of the tribe, of the clan, of the family ; 
and he gives us a picture of the natives subjected to a strict 
code of behaviour and good manners, to which in comparison 
the life at the Court of Versailles or Escurial was free and easy.* 

Thus the first and basic ideal of ethnographic field-work is 
to give a clear and firm outline of the social constitution, and 
disentangle the laws and regularities of all cultural phenomena 

* The legendary " early authority " who found the natives only beastly 
and without customs is left behind by a modem writer, who, speaking about 
the Southern Massim with whom he lived and worked ** in close contact *' for 
many years, says ** . . . We teach lawless men to become obedient, 
inhuman men to love, and savage men to change." And again : " Guided 
in his conduct by nothing but his instincts and propensities, and governed by 
his unchecked passions. . . ." " Lawless, inhuman and savage f " A 
grosser misstatement of the real state of things could not be invented by anyone 
wishing to parody the Missionary point of view. Quoted from the Rev. C. W. 
Abel, of the London Missionary Society, " Savage Life in New Guinea," no 


from the irrelevances. The firm skeleton of the tribal life has 
to be first ascertained. This ideal imposes in the first place 
the fundamental obligation of giving a complete survey of the 
phenomena, and not of picking out the sensational, the singular, 
still less the funny and quaint. The time when we could 
tolerate accounts presenting us the native as a distorted, childish 
caricature of a human being are gone. This picture is false > 
and like many other falsehoods, it has been killed by Science. 
The field Ethnographer has seriously and soberly to cover the 
full extent of the phenomena in each aspect of tribal culture 
studied, making no difference between what is commonplace, 
or drab, or ordinary, and what strikes him as astonishing and 
out-of-the-way. At the same time, the whole area of tribal 
culture in all its aspects has to be gone over in research. The 
consistency, the law and order which obtain within each 
aspect make also for joining them into one coherent whole. 

An Ethnographer who sets out to study only religion, or 
only technology, or only social organisation cuts out an 
artificial field for inquiry, and he will be seriously handicapped 
in his work. 


Having settled this very general rule, let us descend to 
more detailed consideration of method. The Ethnographer 
has in the field, according to what has just been said, the duty 
before him of drawing up all the rules and regularities of tribal 
life ; all that is permanent and fixed ; of giving an anatomy 
of their culture, of depicting the constitution of their society. 
But these things, though crystallised and set, are nowhere 
formulated. There is no written or explicitly expressed code 
of laws, and their whole tribal tradition, the whole structure of 
their society, are embodied in the most elusive of all materials ; 
the human being. But not even in human mind or memory 
are these laws to be found definitely formulated. The natives 
obey the forces and commands of the tribal code, but they 
do not comprehend them ; exactly as they obey their instincts 
and their impulses, but could not lay down a single law of 
psychology. The regularities in native institutions are an 
automatic result of the interaction of the mental forces of 
tradition, and of the material conditions of environment. 
Exactly as a humble member of any modern institution, 


whether it be the state, or the church, or the army, is of it and 
in it, but has no vision of the resulting integral action of the 
whole, still less could furnish any account of its organisation, 
so it would be futile to attempt questioning a native in abstract, 
sociological terms. The difference is that, in our society, 
every institution has its intelligent members, its historians, 
and its archives and documents, whereas in a native society 
there are none of these. After this is realised an expedient has 
to be found to overcome this difficulty. This expedient for an 
Ethnographer consists in collecting concrete data of evidence, 
and drawing the general inferences for himself. This seems 
obvious on the face of it, but was not found out or at least 
practised in Ethnography till field work was taken up by men 
of science. Moreover, in giving it practical effect, it is neither 
easy to devise the concrete applications of this method, nor to 
carry them out systematically and consistently. 

Though we cannot ask a native about abstract, general rules, 
we can always enquire how a given case would be treated. 
Thus for instance, in asking how they would treat crime, 
or punish it, it would be vain to put to a native a sweeping 
question such as, " How do you treat and punish a criminal ? " 
for even words could not be found to express it in native, or 
in pidgin. But an imaginary case, or still better, a real 
occurrence, will stimulate a native to express his opinion and to 
supply plentiful information. A real case indeed will start the 
natives on a wave of discussion, evoke expressions of indigna- 
tion, show them taking sides all of which talk will probably 
contain a wealth of definite views, of moral censures, as well 
as reveal the social mechanism set in motion by the crime 
committed. From there, it will be easy to lead them on to 
speak of other similar cases, to remember other actual occur- 
rences or to discuss them in all their implications and aspects. 
From this material, which ought to cover the widest possible 
range of facts, the inference is obtained by simple induction. 
The scientific treatment differs from that of good common sense, 
first in that a student will extend the completeness and 
minuteness of survey much further and in a pedantically 
systematic and methodical manner ; and secondly, in that the 
scientifically trained mind, will push the inquiry along really 
relevant lines, and towards aims possessing real importance. 
Indeed, the object of scientific training is to provide the 


empirical investigator with a mental chart, in accordance with 
which he can take his bearings and lay his course. 

To return to our example, a number of definite cases 
discussed will reveal to the Ethnographer the social machinery 
for punishment. This is one part, one aspect of tribal 
authority. Imagine further that by a similar method of 
inference from definite data, he arrives at understanding leader- 
ship in war, in economic enterprise, in tribal festivities there 
he has at once all the data necessary to answer the questions 
about tribal government and social authority. In actual 
field work, the comparison of such data, the attempt to piece 
them together, will 'often reveal rifts and gaps in the infor- 
mation which lead on to further investigations. 

From my own experience, I can say that, very often, a 
problem seemed settled, everything fixed and clear, till I began 
to write down a short preliminary sketch of my results. And 
only then, did I see the enormous deficiencies, which would 
show me where lay new problems, and lead me on to new work. 
In fact, I spent a few months between my first and second 
expeditions, and over a year between that and the subsequent 
one, in going over all my material, and making parts of it almost 
ready for publication each time, though each time I knew I 
would have to re-write it. Such cross-fertilisation of con- 
structive work and observation, I found most valuable, and I 
do not think I could have made real headway without it. I give 
this bit of my own history merely to show that what has been 
said so far is not only an empty programme, but the result of 
personal experience. In this volume, the description is given of 
a big institution connected with ever so many associated 
activities, and presenting many aspects. To anyone who 
reflects on the subject, it will be clear that the information 
about a phenomenon of such high complexity and of so many 
ramifications, could not be obtained with any degree of 
exactitude and completeness, without a constant interplay of 
constructive attempts and empirical checking. In fact, I have 
written up an outline of the Kula institution at least half a 
dozen times while in the field and in the intervals between my 
expeditions. Each time, new problems and difficulties 
presented themselves. 

The collecting of concrete data over a wide range of facts is 
thus one of the main points of field method. The obligation 


is not to enumerate a few examples only, but to exhaust as far 
as possible all the cases within reach ; and, on this search for 
cases, the investigator will score most whose mental chart is 
clearest. But, whenever the material of the search allows it, 
this mental chart ought to be transformed into a real one ; 
it ought to materialise into a diagram, a plan, an exhaustive, 
synoptic table of cases. Long since, in all tolerably good 
modern books on natives, we expect to find a full list or table of 
kinship terms, which includes all the data relative to it, and 
does not just pick out a few strange and anomalous relation- 
ships or expressions. In the investigation of kinship, the 
following up of one relation after another in concrete cases 
leads naturally to the construction of genealogical tables. 
Practised already by the best early writers, such as Munzinger, 
and, if I remember rightly, Kubary, this method has been 
developed to its fullest extent in the works of Dr. Rivers. 
Again, studying the concrete data of economic transactions, 
in order to trace the history of a valuable object, and to gauge 
the nature of its circulation, the principle of completeness and 
thoroughness would lead to construct tables of transactions, 
such as we find in the work of Professor Seligman.* It is in 
following Professor Seligman's example in this matter that I 
was able to settle certain of the more difficult and detailed 
rules of the Kula. The method of reducing information, if 
possible, into charts or synoptic tables ought to be extended to 
the study of practically all aspects of native life. All types of 
economic transactions may be studied by following up con- 
nected, actual cases, and putting them into a synoptic chart ; 
again, a table ought to be drawn up of all the gifts and presents 
customary in a given society , a table including the sociological, 
ceremonial, and economic definition of every item. Also, systems 
of magic, connected series of ceremonies, types of legal acts, all 
could be charted, allowing each entry to be synoptically defined 
under a number of headings. Besides this, of course, the 
genealogical census of every community, studied more in detail, 
extensive maps, plans and diagrams, illustrating ownership in 
garden land, hunting and fishing privileges, etc., serve as the 
more fundamental documents of ethnographic research. 

A genealogy is nothing else but a synoptic chart of a number 

* For instance, the tables of circulation of the valuable axe blades, op. 
<*t., pp. 531, 532. 


of connected relations of kinship. Its value as an instrument 
of research consists in that it allows the investigator to put 
questions which he formulates to himself in abstraclo, but can 
put concretely to the native informant. As a document, its 
value consists in that it gives a number of authenticated data, 
presented in their natural grouping. A synoptic chart of 
magic fulfils the same function. As an instrument of research, 
I have used it in order to ascertain, for instance, the ideas about 
the nature of magical power. With a chart before me, I could 
easily and conveniently go over one item after the other, and 
note down the relevant practices and beliefs contained in each 
of them. The answer to my abstract problem could then be 
obtained by drawing a general inference from all the cases, 
and the procedure is illustrated in Chapters XVII and XVIII.* 
I cannot enter further into the discussion of this question, 
which would need further distinctions, such as between a chart 
of concrete, actual data, such as is a genealogy, and a chart 
summarising the outlines of a custom or belief, as a chart of a 
magical system would be. 

Returning once more to the question of methodological 
candour, discussed previously in Division 1 1, 1 wish to point 
out here, that the procedure of concrete and tabularised 
presentation of data ought to be applied first to the Ethno- 
grapher's own credentials. That is, an Ethnographer, who 
wishes to be trusted, must show clearly and concisely, in a 
tabularised form, which are his own direct observations, and 
which the indirect information that form the bases of his 
account. The Table on the next page will serve as an example 
of this procedure and help the reader of this book to form an 
idea of the trustworthiness of any statement he is specially 
anxious to check. With the help of this Table and the many 
references scattered throughout the text, as to how, under 
what circumstances, and with what degree of accuracy I arrived 
at a given item of knowledge, there will, I hope remain no 
obscurity whatever as to the sources of the book. 

* In this book, besides the adjoining Table, which does not strictly belong 
to the class of document of which I speak here, the reader will find only a few 
samples of synoptic tables, such as the list of Kula partners mentioned and 
analysed in Chapter XIII, Division II, the list of gifts and presents in Chapter 
VI, Division VI, not tabularised, only described ; the synoptic data of a Kula 
expedition in Chapter XVI, and the table of Kula magic given in Chapter XV II. 
Here, I have not wanted to overload the account with charts, etc., preferring to 
reserve them till the full publication of my material. 



FIRST EXPEDITION, August, 1914 March, 1915. 

March, 1915. In the village of Dikoyas (Woodlark Island) a 
few ceremonial offerings seen. Preliminary information 

SECOND EXPEDITION, May, 1915 May, 1916. 

June, 1915. A Kabigidoya visit arrives from Vakuta to 
Kiriwina. Its anchoring at Kavataria witnessed and the 
men seen at Omarakana, where information collected. 

July, 1915. Several parties from Kitava land on the beach of 
Kaulukuba. The men examined in Omarakana. Much 
information collected in that period. 

September, 1915. Unsuccessful attempt to sail to Kitava with 
To'uluwa, the chief of Omarakana. 

October-November, 1915. Departure noticed of three expeditions 
from Kiriwina to Kitava. Each time To'uluwa brings home 
a haul of mwali (armshells). 

November, 1915 March, 1916. Preparations for a big overseas 
expedition from Kiriwina to the Marshall Bennett Islands. 
Construction of a canoe ; renovating of another ; sail making 
in Omarakana ; launching ; tasasoria on the beach of 
Kaulukuba. At the same time, information is being 
obtained about these and the associated subjects. Some 
magical texts of canoe building and Kula magic obtained. 

THIRD EXPEDITION, October, 1917 October, 1918. 

November, 1917 December, 1917. Inland Kula ; some data 

obtained in Tukwaukwa. 
December February, 1918. Parties from Kitava arrive in 

Wawela. Collection of information about the yoyova. 

Magic and spells of Kaygau obtained. 
March, 1918. Preparations in Sanaroa; preparations in the 

Amphletts ; the Dobuan fleet arrives in the Amphletts. 

The uvalaku expedition from Dobu followed to Boyowa. 
April, 1918. Their arrival ; their reception in Sinaketa ; the 

Kula transactions ; the big intertribal gathering. Some 

magical formulae obtained. 
May, 1918. Party from Kitava seen in Vakuta, 
June, July, 1918. Information about Kula magic and customs 

checked and amplified in Omarakana, especially with regard 

to its Eastern branches. 

August, September, 1918. Magical texts obtained in Sinaketa. 
October, 1918. Information obtained from a number of natives 

in Dobu and Southern Massim district (examined in 



To summarise the first, cardinal point of method, I may 
say each phenomenon ought to be studied through the broadest 
range possible of its concrete manifestations ; each studied by 
an exhaustive survey of detailed examples. If possible, the 
results ought to be embodied into some sort of synoptic chart, 
both to be used as an instrument of study, and to be presented 
as an ethnological document. With the help of such documents 
and such study of actualities the clear outline of the frame- 
work of the natives' culture in the widest sense of the word, 
and the constitution of their society, can be presented. This 
method could be called the method of statistic documentation by 
concrete evidence. 


Needless to add, in this respect, the scientific field-work 
is far above even the best amateur productions. There is, 
however, one point in which the latter often excel. This is, 
in the presentation of intimate touches of native life, in bringing 
home to us these aspects of it with which one is made familiar 
only through being in close contact with the natives, one way 
or the other, for a long period of time. In certain results of 
scientific work especially that which has been called " survey 
work " we are given an excellent skeleton, so to speak, of the 
tribal constitution, but it lacks flesh and blood. We learn 
much about the framework of their society, but within it, we 
cannot perceive or imagine the realities of human life, the even 
flow of everyday events, the occasional ripples of excitement 
over a feast, or ceremony, or some singular occurrence. In 
working out the rules and regularities of native custom, and in 
obtaining a precise formula for them from the collection of data 
and native statements, we find that this very precision is 
foreign to real life, which never adheres rigidly to any rules. It 
must be supplemented by the observation of the manner in 
which a given custom is carried out, of the behaviour of the 
natives in obeying the rules so exactly formulated by the 
ethnographer, of the very exceptions which in sociological 
phenomena almost always occur. 

If all the conclusions are solely based on the statements of 
informants, or deduced from objective documents, it is of course 
impossible to supplement them in actually observed data of 
real behaviour. And that is the reason why certain works of 


amateur residents of long standing, such as educated traders 
and planters, medical men and officials, and last, not least, of 
the few intelligent and unbiassed missionaries to whom 
Ethnography owes so much, this is the reason why these works 
surpass in plasticity and in vividness most of the purely 
scientific accounts. But if the specialised field-worker can 
adopt the conditions of living described above, he* is in a far 
better position to be really in touch with the natives than any 
other white resident. For none of them lives right in a native 
village, except for very short periods, and everyone has his own 
business, which takes up a considerable part of his time. More- 
over, if, like a trader or a missionary or an official he enters into 
active relations with the native, if he has to transform or 
influence or make use of him, this makes a real, unbiassed, 
impartial observation impossible, and precludes all-round 
sincerity, at least in the case of the missionaries and officials. 

Living in the village with no other business but to follow 
native life, one sees the customs, ceremonies and transactions 
over and over again, one has examples of their beliefs as they 
are actually lived through, and the full body and blood of 
actual native life fills out soon the skeleton of abstract con- 
structions. That is the reason why, working under such con- 
ditions as previously described, the Ethnographer is enabled to 
add something essential to the bare outline of tribal con- 
stitution, and to supplement it by all the details of behaviour, 
setting and small incident. He is able in each case to state 
whether an act is public or private ; how a public assembly 
behaves, and what it looks like ; he can judge whether an event 
is ordinary or an exciting and singular one ; whether natives 
bring to it a great deal of sincere and earnest spirit, or perform 
it in fun ; whether they do it in a perfunctory manner, or with 
zeal and deliberation. 

In other words, there is a series of phenomena of great 
importance which cannot possibly be recorded by questioning 
or computing documents, but have to be observed in their 
full actuality. Let us call them the inponderabilia of actual life. 
Here belong such things as the routine of a man's working day, 
the details of his care of the body, of the manner of taking food 
and preparing it ; the tone of conversational and social life 
around the village fires, the existence of strong friendships or 
hostilities, and of passing sympathies and dislikes between 


people ; the subtle yet unmistakable manner in which personal 
vanities and ambitions are reflected in the behaviour of the 
individual and in the emotional reactions of those who surround 
him. All these facts can and ought to be scientifically forma- 
lated and recorded, but it is necessary that this be done, not by 
a superficial registration of details, as is usually done by 
untrained observers, but with an effort at penetrating the 
mental attitude expressed in them. And that is the reason 
why the work of scientifically trained observers, once seriously 
applied to the study of this aspect, will, I believe, yield results 
of surpassing value. So far, it has been done only by amateurs, 
and therefore done, on the whole, indifferently. 

Indeed, if we remember that these imponderable yet all 
important facts of actual life are part of the reaPsubstance of 
the social fabric, that in them are spun the innumerable threads 
which keep together the family, the clan, the village community, 
the tribe their significance becomes clear. The more crystal- 
lised bonds of social grouping, such as the definite ritual, 
the economic and legal duties, the obligations, the ceremonial 
gifts and formal marks of regard, though equally important 
for the student, are certainly felt less strongly by the individual 
who has to fulfil them. Applying this to ourselves, we all 
know that " family life " means for us, first and foremost, the 
atmosphere of home, all the innumerable small acts and 
attentions in which are expressed the affection, the mutual 
interest, the little preferences, and the little antipathies which 
constitute intimacy. That we may inherit from this person, 
that we shall have to walk after the hearse of the other, though 
sociologically these facts belong to the definition of " family " 
and " family life," in personal perspective of what family truly 
is to us, they normally stand very much in the background. 

Exactly the same applies to a native community, and if the 
Ethnographer wants to bring their real life home to his readers, 
he must on no account neglect this. Neither aspect, the 
intimate, as little as the legal, ought to be glossed over. Yet as 
a rule in ethnographic accounts we have not both but either 
the one or the other and, so far, the intimate one has hardly 
ever been properly treated. In all social relations besides the 
family ties, even those between mere tribesmen and, beyond 
that, between hostile or friendly members of different tribes, 
meeting on any sort of social business, there is this in -inflate 


side, expressed by the typical details of intercourse, the tone of 
their behaviour in the presence of one another. This side is 
different from the definite, crystalised legal frame of the 
relationship, and it has to be studied and stated in its own 

In the same way, in studying the conspicuous acts of 
tribal life, such as ceremonies, rites, festivities, etc./the details 
and tone of behaviour ought to be given, besides the bare out- 
line of events. The importance of this may be exemplified by 
one instance. Much has been said and written about survival. 
Yet the survival character of an act is expressed in nothing as 
well as in the concomitant behaviour, in the way in which 
it is carried out. Take any example from our own culture, 
whether it be the pomp and pageantry of a state ceremony, or a 
picturesque custom kept up by street urchins, its " outline " 
will not tell you whether the rite flourishes still with full vigour 
in the hearts of those who perform it or assist at the performance 
or whether they regard it as almost a dead thing, kept alive for 
tradition's sake. But observe and fix the data of their 
behaviour, and at once the degree of vitality of the act will 
become clear. There is no doubt, from all points of socio- 
logical, or psychological analysis, and in any question of theory, 
the manner and type of behaviour observed in the performance 
of an act is of the highest importance. Indeed behaviour is 
a fact, a relevant fact, and one that can be recorded. And 
foolish indeed and short-sighted would be the man of science 
who would pass by a whole class of phenomena, ready to be 
garnered, and leave them to waste, even though he did not see 
at the moment to what theoretical use they might be put ! 

As to the actual method of observing and recording in field- 
work these imponderabilia of actual life and of typical behaviour, 
there is no doubt that the personal equation of the observer 
comes in here more prominently, than in the collection of 
crystalised, ethnographic data. But here also the main 
endeavour must be to let facts speak for themselves. If in 
making a daily round of the village, certain small incidents, 
characteristic forms of taking food, of conversing, of doing 
work (see for instance Plate III) are found occuring over and 
over again, they should be noted down at once. It is also 
important that this work of collecting and fixing impressions 
should begin early in the course of working out a district. 


Because certain subtle peculiarities, which make an impression 
as long as they are novel, cease to be noticed as soon as they 
become familiar. Others again can only be perceived with a 
better knowledge of the local conditions. An ethnographic 
diary, carried on systematically throughout the course of one's 
work in a district would be the ideal instrument for this sort 
of study. And if, side by side with the normal and typical, the 
ethnographer carefully notes the slight, or the more pronounced 
deviations from it, he will be able to indicate the two extremes 
within which the normal moves. 

In observing ceremonies or other tribal events, such, for 
instance as the scene depicted in Plate IV, it is necessary, not 
only to note down those occurrences and details which are 
prescribed by tradition and custom to be the essential course 
of the act, but also the Ethnographer ought to record carefully 
and precisely, one after the other, the actions of the actors and 
of the spectators. Forgetting for a moment that he knows and 
understands the structure of this ceremony, the main dogmatic 
ideas underlying it, he might try to find himself only in the 
midst of an assembly of human beings, who behave seriously or 
jocularly, with earnest concentration or with bored frivolity, 
who are either in the same mood as he finds them every day, or 
else are screwed up to a high pitch of excitement, and so on 
and so on. With his attention constantly directed to this 
aspect of tribal life, with the constant endeavour to fix it, to 
express it in terms of actual fact, a good deal of reliable and 
expressive material finds its way into his notes. He will be 
able to " set " the act into its proper place in tribal life, that is 
to show whether it is exceptional or commonplace, one in which 
the natives behave ordinarily, or one in which their whole 
behaviour is transformed. And he will also be able to bring 
all this home to his readers in a clear, convincing manner. 

Again, in this type of work, it is good for the Ethnographer 
sometimes to put aside camera, note book and pencil, and to 
join in himself in what is going on. He can take part in the 
natives' games, he can follow them on their visits and walks, 
sit down and listen and share in their conversations. I am 
not certain if this is equally easy for everyone perhaps the 
Slavonic nature is more plastic and more naturally savage than 
that of Western Europeans but though the degree of success 
varies, the attempt is possible for everyone. Out of such 


plunges into the life of the natives and I made them frequently 
not only for study's sake but because everyone needs human 
company I have carried away a distinct feeling that their 
behaviour, their manner of being, in all sorts of tribal trans- 
actions, became more transparent and easily understandable 
than it had been before. All these methodological remarks, 
the reader will find again illustrated in the following 


Finally, let us pass to the third and last aim of scientific 
field-work, to the last type of phenomenon which ought to be 
recorded in order to give a full and adequate picture of native 
culture. Besides the firm outline of tribal constitution and 
crystallised cultural items which form the skeleton, besides the 
data of daily life and ordinary behaviour, which are, so to 
speak, its flesh and blood, there is still to be recorded the 
spirit the natives' views and opinions and utterances. For, 
in every act of tribal life, there is, first, the routine prescribed 
by custom and tradition, then there is the manner in which it 
is carried out, and lastly there is the commentary to it, con- 
tained in the natives' mind. A man who submits to various 
customary obligations, who follows a traditional course of 
action, does it impelled by certain motives, to the accompani- 
ment of certain feelings, guided by certain ideas. These ideas, 
feelings, and impulses are moulded and conditioned by the 
culture in which we find them, and are therefore an ethnic 
peculiarity of the given society. An attempt must be made 
therefore, to study and record them. 

But is this possible ? Are these subjective states not too 
elusive and shapeless ? And, even granted that people 
usually do feel or think or experience certain psychological 
states in association with the performance of customary acts, 
the majority of them surely are not able to formulate these 
states, to put them into words. This latter point must certainly 
be granted, and it is perhaps the real Gordian knot in the study 
of the facts of social psychology. Without trying to cut or 
untie this knot, that is to solve the problem theoretically, or to 
enter further into the field of general methodology, I shall 
make directly for the question of practical means to overcome 
some of the difficulties involved. 


First of all, it has to be laid down that we have to study here 
stereotyped manners of thinking and feeling. As sociologists, 
we are not interested in what A or B may feel qua individuals, 
in the accidental course of their own personal experiences we 
are interested only in what they feel and think qua members 
of a given community. Now in this capacity, their mental 
states receive a certain stamp, become stereotyped by the 
institutions in which they live, by the influence of tradition and 
folk-lore, by the very vehicle of thought, that is by language. 
The social and cultural environment in which they move forces 
them to think and feel in a definite manner. Thus, a man 
who lives in a polyandrous community cannot experience the 
same feelings of jealousy, as a strict monogynist, though he 
might have the elements of them. A man who lives within the 
sphere of the Kula cannot become permanently and senti- 
mentally attached to certain of his possessions, in spite of the 
fact that he values them most of all. These examples are crude, 
but better ones will be found in the text of this book. 

So, the third commandment of field-work runs : Find out 
the typical ways of thinking and feeling, corresponding to the 
institutions and culture of a given community, and formulate 
the results in the most convincing manner. What will be the 
method of procedure ? The best ethnographical writers here 
again the Cambridge school with Haddon, Rivers, and 
Seligman rank first among English Ethnographers have 
always tried to quote verbatim statements of crucial importance. 
They also adduce terms of native classification ; sociological, 
psychological and industrial termini technici, and have rendered 
the verbal contour of native thought as precisely as possible. 
One step further in this line can be made by the Ethnographer, 
who acquires a knowledge of the native language and can use it 
as an instrument of inquiry. In working in the Kiriwinian 
language, I found still some difficulty in writing down the 
statement directly in translation which at first I used to do 
in the act of taking notes. The translation often robbed the 
text of all its significant characteristics rubbed off all its 
points so that gradually I was led to note down certain 
important phrases just as they were spoken, in the native 
tongue. As my knowledge of the language progressed, I put 
down more and more in Iliriwinian, till at last I found myself 
writing exclusively in that language, rapidly taking notes, 


word for word, of each statement. No sooner had I arrived 
at this point, than I recognised that I was thus acquiring at 
the same time an abundant linguistic material, and a series of 
ethnographic documents which ought to be reproduced as I 
had fixed them, besides being utilised in the writing up of my 
account.* This corpus inscriptionum Kiriwiniensium can be 
utilised, not only by myself, but by all those who, through 
their better penetration and ability of interpreting them, may 
find points which escape my attention, very much as the other 
corpora form the basis for the various interpretations of ancient 
and prehistoric cultures ; only, these ethnographic inscriptions 
are all decipherable and clear, have been almost all translated 
fully and unambiguously, and have been provided with native 
cross-commentaries or scholia obtained from living sources. 

No more need be said on this subject here, as later on a 
whole chapter (Chapter XVIII) is devoted to it, and to its 
exemplification by several native texts. The Corpus will of 
course be published separately at a later date. 


Our considerations thus indicate that the goal of 
ethnographic field-work must be approached through three 
avenues : 

1. The organisation of the tribe, and the anatomy of its culture 
must be recorded in firm, clear outline. The method of 
concrete, statistical documentation is the means through which 
such an outline has to be given. 

2. Within this frame, the imponderabilia of actual life, and 
the type of behaviour have to be filled in. They have to be 
collected through minute, detailed observations, in the form 
of some sort of ethnographic diary, made possible by close 
contact with native life. 

3. A collection of ethnographic statements, characteristic 
narratives, typical utterances, items of folk-lore and magical 
formulae has to be given as a corpus inscriptionum, as documents 
of native mentality. 

* It was soon after I had adopted this course that I received a letter from 
Dr. A. H. Gardiner, the well-known Egyptologist, urging me to do this very 
thing. From his point of view as archaeologist, he naturally saw the enormous 
possibilities for an Ethnographer of obtaining a similar body of written sources 
as have been preserved to us from ancient cultures, plus the possibility of 
illuminating them by personal knowledge of the full life of that culture. 


These three lines of approach lead to the final goal, of which 
an Ethnographer should never lose sight. This goal is, briefly, 
to grasp the native's point of view, his relation to life, to realise 
his vision of his world. We have to study man, and we must 
study what concerns him most intimately, that is, the hold 
which life has on him. In each culture, the values are slightly 
different ; people aspire after different aims, follow different 
impulses, yearn after a different form of happiness. In each 
culture, we find different institutions in which man pursues 
his life-interest, different customs by which he satisfies his 
aspirations, different codes of law and morality which reward 
his virtues or punish his defections. To study the institutions, 
customs, and codes or to study the behaviour and mentality 
without the subjective desire of feeling by what these people 
live, of realising the substance of their happiness is, in my 
opinion, to miss the greatest reward which we can hope to 
obtain from the study of man. 

These generalities the reader will find illustrated in the 
following chapters. We shall see there the savage striving to 
satisfy certain aspirations, to attain his type of value, to follow 
his line of social ambition. We shall see him led on to perilous 
and difficult enterprises by a tradition of magical and heroical 
exploits, shall see him following the lure of his own romance. 
Perhaps as we read the account of these remote customs there 
may emerge a feeling of solidarity with the endeavours and 
ambitions of these natives. Perhaps man's mentality will 
be revealed to us, and brought near, along some lines which 
we never have followed before. Perhaps through realising 
human nature in a shape very distant and foreign to us, we 
shall have some light shed on our own. In this, and in this 
case only, we shall be justified in feeling that it has been worth 
our while to understand these natives, their institutions and 
customs, and that we have gathered some profit from the 



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THE tribes who live within the sphere of the Kula system of 
trading belong, one and all with the exception perhaps, of 
the Rossel Island natives, of whom we know next to nothing 
to the same racial group. These tribes inhabit the eastern- 
most end of the mainland of New Guinea and those islands, 
scattered in the form of the long-drawn archipelago, which 
continue in the same south-easternly trend as the mainland, 
as if to bridge over the gap between New Guinea and the 

New Guinea is a mountainous island-continent, very 
difficult of access in its interior, and also at certain portions 
of the coast, where barrier reefs, swamps and rocks practically 
prevent landing or even approach for native craft. Such a 
country would obviously not offer the same opportunities in 
all its parts to the drifting migrations which in all probability 
are responsible for the composition of the present population 
of the South Seas. The easily accessible portions of the coast 
and the outlying islands would certainly offer a hospitable 
reception to immigrants of a higher stock ; but, on the other 
hand, the high hills, the impregnable fastnesses in swampy 
flats and shores where landing was difficult and dangerous, 
would give easy protection to the aborigines, and discourage 
the influx of migrators. 

The actual distribution of races in New Guinea completely 
justifies these hypotheses. Map II shows the Eastern part 
of the main island and archipelagoes of New Guinea and the 
racial distribution of the natives. The interior of the 
continent, the low sago swamps and deltas of the Gulf of Papua 
probably the greater part of the North Coast and of the 
South- West Coast of New Guinea, are inhabited by a " relatively 


tall, dark-skinned, frizzly-haired " race, called by Dr. Seligman 
Papuan, and in the hills more especially by pygmy tribes. 
We know little about these people, swamp tribes and hill 
tribes alike, who probably are the autochtons in this part of 
the world.* As we shall also not meet them in the following 
account, it will be better to pass to the tribes who inhabit the 
accessible parts of New Guinea. " The Eastern Papuasians, 
that is, the generally smaller, lighter coloured* frizzly-haired 
races of the eastern peninsula of New Guinea and its archi- 
pelagoes now require a name, and since the true Melanesian 
element is dominant in them, they may be called Papuo- 
Melanesians. With regard to these Eastern Papuasians, Dr. 
A. C. Haddon first recognised that they came into the country 
as the result of a ' Melanesian migration into New Guinea/ 
and further, ' That a single wandering would not account for 
certain puzzling facts/ "f The Papuo-Melanesians again can 
be divided into two groups, a Western and an Eastern one, 
which, following Dr. Seligman's terminology, we shall call the 
Western Papuo-Melanesians and the Massim respectively. It 
is with these latter we shall become acquainted in the 
following pages. 

If we glance at a map and follow the orographical features 
of Eastern New Guinea and its coast line, we see at once that 
the high main range of mountains drops off between the i4Qth 
and isoth meridians, and again that the fringing reef disappears 
at the same point, that is, at the west end of Orangerie Bay. 
This means that the extreme East End of New Guinea, with 
its archipelagoes, in other words, the Massim country, is the 
most easily accessible area, and might be expected to be 
inhabited by a homogeneous stock of people, consisting of 

* The best accounts we possess of the inland tribes are those of W. H. 
Williamson, "The Mafulu," 1912, and of C. Keysser, " Aus dem Leben der 
Kaileute," in R. Neuhauss, '* Deutsch Neu Guinea," Vol. III. Berlin, 1911. 
The preliminary publications of G. Landtmann on the Kiwai, ** Papuan magic 
in the Building of Houses/' " Acta Arboenses, Humanora." I. Abo, 1920, 
and "The Folk-Tales of the Kiwai Papuans," Helsmgfors, 1917, promise that 
the full account will dispel some of the mysteries surrounding the Gulf of 
Papua. Meanwhile a good semi-popular account of these natives is to be found 
in W. N. Beaver's " Unexplored New Guinea," 1920. Personally I doubt 
very much whether the hill tribes and the swamp tribes belong to the same 
stock or have the same culture. Compare also the most recent contribution to 
this problem " Migrations of Cultures in British New Guinea," by A. C. 
Haddon, Huxley Memorial Lecture for 1921, published by the R. Anthrop 

f vSee C. G. Seligman, "The Melanesians of British New Guinea," Cam- 
bridge, 1910. 


immigrants almost unmixed with the autochtons (Cf. Map II). 
" Indeed, while the condition actually existing in the Massim 
area suggests that there was no slow mingling of the invaders 
with a previous stock, the geographical features of the territory 
of the Western Papuo-Melanesians with its hills, mountains 
and swamps, are such that invaders could not have speedily 
overrun the country, nor failed to have been influenced by the 
original inhabitants. . . ."* 

I shall assume that the reader is acquainted with the 
quoted work of Dr. Seligman, where a thorough account is 
given of all the main types of Papuo-Melanesian sociology and 
culture one after the other. But the tribes of the Eastern 
Papuo-Melanesian or Massim area, must be described here 
somewhat more in detail, as it is within this fairly homogeneous 
area that the Kula takes place. Indeed, the Kula sphere of 
influence and the ethnographic area of the Massim tribes 
almost completely overlap, and we can speak about the Kula 
type of culture and the Massim culture almost synonymously. 


The adjacent Map III shows the Kula district, that is, the 
easternmost end of the main island and the archipelagoes lying 
to its East and North-East. As Professor C. G. Seligman 
says : " This area can be divided into two parts, a small 
northern portion comprising the Trobriands, the Marshall 
Rennets, the Woodlarks (Murua), as well as a number of 
smaller islands such as the Laughlans (Nada), and a far larger 
southern portion comprising the remainder of the Massim 
domain" (op. cit., p. 7). 

This division is represented on Map III by the thick line 
isolating to the North the Amphletts, the Trobriands, the small 
Marshall Bennet Group, Woodlark Island and the Laughlan 
Group. The Southern portion, I found convenient to divide 
further into two divisions by a vertical line, leaving to the 
East Misima, Sud-Est Island and Rossel Island. As our 
information about this district is extremely scanty, I have 
preferred to exclude it from the area of the Southern Massim. 
In this excluded area, only the natives of Misima enter into the 
Kula, but their participation will play a very small part only 
in the following account. The western segment, and this is 
* Cf. C. G. Seligman, op. cit., p. 5. 









the part of which we shall speak as the district of the Southern 
Massim, comprises first the East End of the mainland, the few 
adjacent islands, Sariba, Roge'a, Side'a, and Basilaki; to the 
South, the island of Wari, to the East the important, though 
small archipelago of Tubetube (Engineer Group) ; and to the 
North, the big archipelago of the d'Entrecasteaux Islands. 
From this latter, only one district, that of Dobu, interests us 
more specially. The culturally homogeneous tribes of the 
Southern Massim have been marked off on our map as district 
V, the Doubans as district IV. 

Returning to the two main divisions into the Southern 
and Northern portion, this latter is occupied by a very homo- 
geneous population, homogeneous both in language and 
culture, and in the clear recognition of their own ethnic unity. 
To quote further Professor Seligman, it " is characterised by 
the absence of cannibalism, which, until put down by the 
Government, existed throughout the remaining portion of the 
district ; another peculiarity of the Northern Massim is their 
recognition " in certain districts, though not in all, of chief tans 
who wield extensive powers (op. cit. p. 7). The natives of that 
northern area used to practise I say used because wars are 
a thing of the past a type of warfare open and chivalrous, 
very different from the raids of the Southern Massim. Their 
villages are built in big compact blocks, and they have store- 
houses on piles for storing food, distinct from their rather 
miserable dwellings, which stand directly on the ground and 
are not raised on piles. As can be seen on the map, it has been 
necessary to sub-divide this Northern Massim further into 
three groups, first, that of the Trobriand Islanders, or the 
Boyowans (the Western Branch) ; secondly that of the natives 
of Woodlark Island and the Marshall Bennets (the Eastern 
Branch) ; and, thirdly, the small group of the Amphlett natives. 

The other big sub-division of the Kula tribes is composed 
of the Southern Massim, of which, as just said, the western 
branch mainly concerns us. These last natives are smaller 
in stature, and with, broadly speaking, a much less attractive 
appearance than those of the North.* They live in widely 

* A number of good portraits of the S. Massim type are to be found in 
the valuable book ot the Rev. H. Newton, " In Far New Guinea," 1914 and in 
the amusingly written though superficial and often unreliable booklet of the 
Rev. C. W. Abel (London Missionary Society), " Savage Life in New Guinea " 
(No date). 


scattered communities, each house or group of houses standing 
in its own little grove of palm and fruit trees, apart from the 
others. Formerly they were cannibals and head-hunters, 
and used to make unexpected raids on their adversaries. There 
is no chieftainship, authority being exercised by the elders in 
each community. They build very elaborately constructed 
and beautifully decorated houses on piles. 

I have found it necessary for the purpose of this study to 
cut out of the western branch of the southern portion of the 
Massim the two areas (marked IV and V on the Map III), 
as they are of special importance to the Kula. It must, how- 
ever, be borne in mind that our present knowledge does not 
allow of any final classification of the Southern Massim. 

Such are the general characteristics of the Northern and 
Southern Massim respectively, given in a few words. But 
before proceeding with our subject, it will be good to give a 
short but more detailed sketch of each of these tribes. I shall 
begin with the southernmost section, following the order in 
which a visitor, travelling from Port Moresby with the Mail 
boat, would come in contact with these districts, the way indeed 
in which I received my first impressions of them. My personal 
knowledge of the various tribes is, however, very uneven, 
based on a long residence among the Trobriand Islanders 
(District I), on a month's study of the Amphletts (District 
III) ; on a few weeks spent in Woodlark Island or Murua 
(District II), the neighbourhood of Samarai (District V), and 
the South Coast of New Guinea (also V) ; and on three short 
visits to Dobu (District IV). My knowledge of some of the 
remaining localities which enter into the Kula is derived only 
from a few conversations I had with natives of this district, 
and on second-hand information derived from white residents. 
The work of Professor C. G. Seligman, however, supplements 
my personal acquaintance in so far as the districts of Tubetube, 
Woodlark Island, the Marshall Bennets, and several others 
are concerned. 

The whole account of the Kula will therefore naturally be 
given from the perspective, so to speak, of the Trobriand 
district. This district is often called in this book by its native 
name, Boyowa, and the language is spoken of as Kiriwinian, 
Kiriwina being the main province of the district, and its 
language considered by the natives as a standard speech. But 


I may add at once that in studying the Kula in that part, I 
ipso facto studied its adjacent branches between the Trobriands 
and the Amphletts, between the Trobriands and Kitava, and 
between the Trobriands and Dobu ; seeing not only the 
preparations and departures in Boyowa, but also the arrival 
of the natives from other districts, in fact, following one or 
two of such expeditions in person.* Moreover, the Kula being 
an international affair, the natives of one tribe know more 
about Kula customs abroad than they would about any other 
subject. And in all its essentials, the customs and tribal rules 
of the exchange are identical throughout the whole Kula area. 


Let us imagine that we are sailing along the South coast 
of New Guinea towards its Eastern end. At about the middle 
of Orangerie Bay we arrive at the boundary of the Massim, 
which runs from this point north-westwards till it strikes the 
northern coast near Cape Nelson (see Map II). As mentioned 
before, the boundary of the district inhabited by this tribe 
corresponds to definite geographical conditions, that is, to the 
absence of natural, inland fastnesses, or of any obstacles to 
landing. Indeed, it is here that the Great Barrier Reef becomes 
finally submerged, while again the Main Range of mountains, 
which follows up to this point, always separated from the 
foreshore by minor ranges, comes to an end. 

Orangerie Bay is closed, on its Eastern side, by a headland, 
the first of a series of hills, rising directly out of the sea. As we 
approach the land, we can see distinctly the steep, folded 
slopes, covered with dense, rank jungle, brightened here and 
there by bold patches of lalang grass. The coast is broken 
first by a series of small, land-locked bays or lagoons ; then, 
after Fife Bay, come one or two larger bays, with a flat, alluvial 
foreshore, and then from South Cape the coast stretches in an 
almost unbroken line, for several miles, to the end of the 

The East End of New Guinea is a tropical region, where 
the distinction between the dry and wet season is not felt very 
sharply. In fact, there is no pronounced dry season there, 
and so the land is always clad in intense, shining green, which 
forms a crude contrast with the blue sea. The summits of the 

* See Table id the Introduction (p. 16), and also Chapters XVI and XX. 


hills are often shrouded in trailing mist, whilst white clouds 
brood or race over the sea, breaking up the monotony of 
saturated, stiff blue and green. To someone not acquainted 
with the South Sea landscape it is difficult to convey the 
permanent impression of smiling festiveness, the alluring 
clearness of the beach, fringed by jungle trees and palms, 
skirted by white foam and blue sea, above it the slopes ascending 
in rich, stiff folds of dark and light green, piebald and shaded 
over towards the summit by steamy, tropical mists. 

When I first sailed along this coast, it was after a few 
months' residence and field work in the neighbouring district 
of the Mailu. From Toulon Island, the main centre and most 
important settlement of the Mailu, I used to look towards the 
East end of Orangerie Bay, and on clear days I could see the 
pyrajnidal hills of Bonabona, of Gadogado'a, as blue silhouettes 
in the distance. Under the influence of my work, I came to 
regard this country within the somewhat narrow native 
horizon, as the distant land to which perilous, seasonal voyages 
are made, from whence come certain objects baskets, 
decorated carvings, weapons, ornaments particularly well 
formed, and superior to the local ones ; the land to which the 
natives point with awe and distrust, when speaking of specially 
evil and virulent forms of sorcery ; the home of a folk mentioned 
with horror as cannibals. Any really fine touch of artistic 
taste, in Mailu carvings, would always be directly imported 
or imitated from the East, and I also found that the softest 
and most melodious songs and the finest dances came from the 
Massim. Many of their customs and institutions would be 
quoted to me as quaint and unusual, and thus, I, the ethno- 
grapher working on the borderland of two cultures, naturally 
had my interest and curiosity aroused. It seemed as if the 
Eastern people must be much more complex, in one direction 
towards the cruel, man-eating savage, in the other towards 
the finely-gifted, poetical lord of primitive forest and seas, 
when I compared them with the relatively coarse and dull 
native of Mailu. No wonder, therefore, that on approaching 
their coast travelling on that occasion in a small launch I 
scanned the landscape with keen interest, anxious to catch my 
first glimpse of natives, or of their traces. 

The first distinctly visible signs of human existence in this 
neighbourhood are the patches of garden land. These big 


clearings, triangular in shape, with the apex pointing uphill, 
look as if they were plastered on to the steep slopes. From 
August to November, the season when the natives cut and 
burn the bush, they can be seen, at night, alight with slowly- 
blazing logs, and in daytime, their smoke clings over the 
clearings, and slowly drifts along the hill side. Later on in the 
year, when the plantation sprouts, they form a bright spot, 
with the light green of their fresh leaves. 

The villages in this district are to be found only on the 
foreshore, at the foot of the hills, hidden in groves of trees, 
with here and there a golden or purplish bit of thatch showing 
through the dark green of the leaves. In calm weather a few 
canoes are probably not far oft, fishing. If the visitor is 
lucky enough to pass at the time of feasts, trading expeditions, 
or any other big tribal gathering, many a fine sea-going canoe 
may be seen approaching the village with the sound of conch 
shells blowing melodiously. 

In order to visit one of the typical, large settlements of 
these natives, let us say near Fife Bay, on the South coast, 
or on the island of Sariba, or Roge'a, it would be best to go 
ashore in some big, sheltered bay, or on one of the extensive 
beaches at the foot of a hilly island. We enter a clear, lofty 
grove, composed of palms, bread fruit, mangoes, and other 
fruit trees, often with a sandy subsoil, well weeded-out and 
clean, where grow clumps of ornamental bushes, such as the 
red-flowering hybiscus, croton or aromatic shrub. Here we 
find the village. Fascinating as may be the Motuan habita- 
tions standing on high piles in the middle of a lagoon, or the 
neat streets of an Aroma or Mailu settlement, or the irregular 
warren of small huts on the Trobriand coast, all these cannot 
compete in picturesqueness or charm with the villages of the 
Southern Massim. When, on a hot day, we enter the deep 
shadow of fruit trees and palms, and find ourselves in the midst 
of the wonderfully designed and ornamented houses hiding 
here and there in irregular groups among the green, surrounded 
by little decorative gardens of shells and flowers, with pebble- 
bordered paths and stone-paved sitting circles, it seems as if 
the visions of a primeval, happy, savage life were suddenly 
realised, even if only in a fleeting impression. Big bodies of 
canoes are drawn high up the beach and covered with palm 
leaves ; here and there nets are drying, spread out on special 


stands, and on the platforms in front of the houses sit groups of 
men and women, busy at some domestic work, smoking 
and chatting. 

Walking along the paths which lead on for miles, we come 
every few hundred yards on another hamlet of a few houses. 
Some of these are evidently new and freshly decorated, while 
others are abandoned, and a heap of broken household objects 
is lying on the ground, showing that the death of one of the 
village elders has caused it to be deserted. As the evening 
approaches, the life becomes more active, fires are kindled, and 
the natives busy themselves cooking and eating food. In the 
dancing season, towards dusk, groups of men and women 
foregather, singing, dancing, and beating drums. 

When we approach the natives closer and scan their personal 
appearance, we are struck if we compare them with their 
Western neighbours by the extreme lightness of their skin, 
their sturdy, even lumpy stature, and a sort of soft, almost 
effete general impression which their physique produces. Their 
fat, broad faces, their squashed noses, and frequently oblique 
eyes, make them appear quaint and grotesque rather than 
impressively savage. Their hair, not so woolly as that of the 
pure Papuans, nor growing into the enormous halo of the 
Motuans, is worn in big mops, which they often cut at the sides 
so as to give the head an oblong, almost cylindrical shape. 
Their manner is shy and diffident, but not unfriendly rather 
smiling and almost servile, in very great contrast to the 
morose Papuan, or the unfriendly, reserved South Coast Mailu 
or Aroma. On the whole, they give at first approach not so 
much the impression of wild savages as of smug and self- 
satisfied bourgeois. 

Their ornaments are much less elaborate and more toned 
down than those of their Western neighbours. Belts and 
armlets plaited of a dark brown fern vine, small red shell 
disks and turtle shell rings as ear ornaments are the only 
permanent, every-day decorations worn. Like all Melanesians 
of Eastern New Guinea, they are quite cleanly in their persons, 
and a personal approach to them does not offend any of our 
senses. They are very fond of red hibiscus flowers stuck in 
their hair, of scented flower wreaths on their head, of aromatic 
leaves thrust into their belts and armlets. Their grand, 
festive head-dress is extremely modest compared with the 



These represent phases of a big annual feast, the .<///. (Set Oiv. Ill, and 
compare also Ch, XXI.) Note the prominent part taken by women in the 
proceedings ; the use of the " ceremonial ** uxc handles ; the manner of 

carrying pigs, and the canoes beached on the shore 

(face p. 36 



These show types of Southern Massim and their decorations ; again note 
the prominent part taken by women in the ceremonial actions. (See Div. III.) 


enormous erections of feathers used by the Western tribes, 
and consists mainly of a round halo of white cockatoo feathers 
stuck into their hair (see Plate V and VI). 

In olden days, before the advent of white men, these 
pleasant, apparently effete people were inveterate cannibals 
and head-hunters, and in their large war-canoes they carried 
on treacherous, cruel raids, falling upon sleeping villages, 
killing man, woman and child, and feasting on their bodies. 
The attractive stone circles in their villages were associated 
with their cannibal feasts.* 

The traveller, who could settle down in one of their villages 
and remain there sufficiently long to study their habits and 
enter into their tribal life, would soon be struck by the absence 
of a well recognised general authority. In this, however, 
the natives resemble not only the other Western Melanesians 
of New Guinea, but also the natives of the Melanesian Archi- 
pelago. The authority in the Southern Massim tribe, as in 
many others, is vested in the village elders. In each hamlet 
the eldest man has a position of personal influence and power, 
and these collectively would in all cases represent the tribe and 
carry out and enforce their decisions always arrived at in 
strict accord with tribal tradition. 

Deeper sociological study would reveal the characteristic 
totemism of these natives, and also the matrilineal construction 
of their society. Descent, inheritance, and social position 
follow the female line a man always belongs to his mother's 
totemic division and local group, and inherits from his mother's 
brother. Women also enjoy a very independent position, and 
are exceedingly well treated, and in tribal and festive affairs 
they play a prominent part (see Plates V and VI). Some 
women, even, owing to their magical powers, wield a consider- 
able influence, f 

The sexual life of these natives is extremely lax. Even 
when we remember the very free standard of sex morals in the 
Melanesian tribes of New Guinea, such as the Motu or the 
Mailu, we still find these natives exceedingly loose in such 
matters. Certain reserves and appearances which are usually 
kept up in other tribes, are here completely abandoned. As is 
probably the case in many communities where sex morals are 

* Cf. Professor C. G. Seligman, op. cit., Chapters XL and XLII. 

| Professor C G. Seligman, op. cit., Chapters XXXV, XXXVI, XXXVII. 


lax, there is a complete absence of unnatural practices and 
sex perversions. Marriage is concluded as the natural end of 
a long and lasting liaison.* 

These natives are efficient and industrious manufacturers, 
and great traders. They own large sea-going canoes, which, 
however, they do not manufacture themselves, but which they 
import from the Northern Massim district, or from Panayati. 
Another feature of their culture, which we shall meet again, 
consists of their big feasts, called So'i (see Plates V and VI), 
associated with mortuary celebrations and with a special 
mortuary taboo called gwara. In the big inter-tribal trading 
of the Kula, these feasts play a considerable role. 

This general, and necessarily somewhat superficial descrip- 
tion, is meant to give the reader a definite impression of these 
tribes, provide them, so to speak, with a physiognomy, rather 
than to give a full account of their tribal constitution. For 
this the reader is referred to Professor C. G. Seligman's treatise, 
our main source of knowledge on the Melanesians of New 
Guinea. The above sketch refers to 'what Professor Seligman 
calls the Southern Massim, or more exactly to the portion 
marked off in the Ethnographic sketch Map No. Ill as 
" V, the Southern Massim " the inhabitants of the Eastern- 
most mainland and the adjacent archipelago. 


Let us now move North, towards the district marked " IV, 
the Dobu," in our map, which forms one of the most important 
links in the chain of Kula and a very influential centre of 
cultural influence. As we sail North, passing East Cape, the 
Easternmost point of the main island a long, flat promontory 
covered with palms and fruit belts, and harbouring a very 
dense population a new world, new both geographically and 
ethnographically, opens up before us. At first it is only a 
faint, bluish silhouette, like a shadow of a distant mountain 
range, hovering far north over the horizon. As we approach, 
the hills of Normanby, the nearest of three big islands of the 
d'Entrecasteaux Archipelago, become clearer and take more 
definite shape and substance. A few high summits stand out 
more distinctly through the usual tropical haze, among them 
the characteristic double-peaked top of Bwebweso, the mountain 
* Cf. Professor C. G. Seligman, Chapters XXXVII and XXXVIII. 


where, according to native legend, the spirits of the dead in 
these parts lead their latter existence. The South Coast of 
Normanby, and the interior are inhabited by a tribe or tribes 
of which we know nothing ethnographically, except that they 
differ culturally from the rest of their neighbours. These 
tribes also take no direct part in the Kula. 

The Northern end of Normanby, both sides of the Dawson 
Straits which separate the two islands of Normanby and 
Fergusson, and the South-eastern tip of Fergusson, are 
inhabited by a very important tribe, the Dobu. The heart 
of their district is the small extinct volcano forming an 
island at the Eastern entrance to Dawson Straits Dobu, 
after which island they are named. To reach it, we have to 
sail through this extremely picturesque channel. On either 
side of the winding, narrow strait, green hills descend, and 
close it in, till it is more like a mountain lake. Here and there 
they recede, and a lagoon opens out. Or again they rise in 
fairly steep slopes, on which there can be plainly seen triangular 
gardens, native houses on piles, large tracts of unbroken jungle 
and patches of grass land. As we proceed, the narrow straits 
broaden, and we see on our right a wide flank of Mt. Sulomona'i 
on Normanby Island. On our left, there is a shallow bay, and 
behind it a large, flat plain, stretching far into the interior of 
Fergusson Island, and over it, we look into wide valleys, and 
on to several distant mountain ranges. After another turn, 
We enter a big bay, on both sides bordered by a flat foreshore, 
and in the middle of it rises out of a girdle of tropical vegetation, 
the creased cone of an extinct volcano, the island of Dobu. 

We are now in the centre of a densely populated and 
ethnographically important district. From this island, in 
olden days, fierce and daring cannibal and head-hunting 
expeditions were periodically launched, to the dread of the 
neighbouring tribes. The natives of the immediately surround- 
ing districts, of the flat foreshore on both sides of the straits, 
and of the big neighbouring islands were allies. But the more 
distant districts, often over a hundred miles away by sail, 
never felt safe from the Dobuans. Again, this was, and still 
is, one of the main links in the Kula, a centre of trade, 
industries and general cultural influence. It is characteristic 
of the international position of the Dobuans that their language 
is spoken as a lingua franca all over the d'Entrecasteaux 


Archipelago, in the Amphletts, and as far north as the Tro- 
briands. In the southern part of these latter islands, almost 
everyone speaks Dobuan, although in Dobu the language of 
the Trobriands or Kiriwinian is hardly spoken by anyone. 
This is a remarkable fact,, which cannot be easily explained 
in terms of the present conditions, as the Trobrianders, if 
anything, are on a higher level of cultural development than 
Dobuans, are more numerous, and enjoy the same general 

Another remarkable fact about Dobu and its district is 
that it is studded with spots of special, mythological interest. 
Its charming scenery, of volcanic cones, of wide, calm bays, 
and lagoons overhung by lofty, green mountains, with the 
reef-riddled, island-strewn ocean on the North, has deep, 
legendary meaning for the native. Here is the land and sea 
where the magically inspired sailors and heroes of the dim past 
performed feats of daring and power. As we sail from the 
entrance into Dawson Straits, through Dobu and the Amphletts 
to Boyowa, almost every new configuration of the land which 
we pass is the scene of some legendary exploit. Here the 
narrow gorge has been broken through by a magic canoe flying 
in the air. There the two rocks standing in the sea are the 
petrified bodies of two mythological heroes who were stranded 
at this spot after a quarrel. Here again, a land-locked lagoon 
has been a port of refuge to a mythical crew. Apart from its 
legends, the scenery before us, fine as it is, derives still more 
charm from the knowledge that it is, and has been a distant 
Eldorado, a land of promise and hope to generation after 
generation of really daring native sailors from the Northern 
islands. And in the past these lands and seas must have been 
the scene of migrations and fights, of tribal invasions, and of 
gradual infiltrations of peoples and cultures. 

In personal appearance, the Dobuans have a very distinct 
physique, which differentiates them sharply from the Southern 
Massim and from the Trobrianders ; very dark-skinned, small 
of stature, with big heads and rounded shoulders, they give a 

* My knowledge of the Dobuans is fragmentary, derived from three short 
visits in their district, from conversation with several Dobu natives whom I 
had in my service, and from frequent parallels and allusions about Dobuan 
customs, which are met when doing field-work among the Southern Trobrianders. 
There is a short, sketchy account of certain of their customs and beliefs by the 
Rev. W. E. Bromilow, first missionary in Dobu, which I have also consulted, 
in the records of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science. 


strange, almost gnome-like impression on a first encounter. 
In their manner, and their tribal character, there is something 
definitely pleasant, honest and open an impression which 
long acquaintance with them confirms and strengthens. They 
are the general favourites of the whites, form the best and 
most reliable servants, and traders who have resided long 
among them compare them favourably with other natives. 

Their villages, like those of the previously described Massim, 
are scattered over wide areas. The fertile and flat foreshores 
which they inhabit are studded with small, compact hamlets 
of a dozen or so houses, hidden in the midst of one continuous 
plantation of fruit trees, palms, bananas and yams. The 
houses are built on piles, but are cruder architecturally than 
those of the S. Massim, and almost without any decorations, 
though in the olden days of head-hunting some of them were 
ornamented with skulls. 

In their social constitution, the people are totemic, being 
divided into a number of exogamous clans with linked totems. 
There is no institution of regular chieftainship, nor have they 
any system of rank or caste such as we shall meet in the 
Trobriands. Authority is vested in the elders of the tribe. 
In each hamlet there is a man who wields the greatest influence 
locally, and acts as its representative on such tribal councils 
as may arise in connection with ceremonies and expeditions. 

Their system of kinship is matrilineal, and women hold 
a very good position, and wield great influence. They also 
seem to take a much more permanent and prominent part 
in tribal life than is the case among the neighbouring popula- 
tions. There is notably one of the features of Dobuan society, 
which seems to strike the Trobrianders as peculiar, and to 
which they will direct attention while giving information, even 
although in the Trobriands also women have a good enough 
social position. In Dobu, women take an important part in 
gardening, and have a share in performing garden magic, and 
this in itself gives them a high status. Again, the main 
instrument for wielding power and inflicting penalties in these 
lands, sorcery, is to a great extent in the hands of women. The 
flying witches, so characteristic of the Eastern New Guinea 
type of culture, here have one of their strongholds. We shall 
have to go into this subject more in detail when speaking 
about shipwreck and the dangers of sailing. Besides thi;, 


women practice ordinary sorcery, which in other tribes is only 
man's prerogative. 

As a rule, amongst natives, a high position of women is 
associated with sex laxity. In this, Dobu is an exception. 
Not only are married women expected to remain faithful, 
and adultery considered a great crime, but, in sharp contrast 
to all surrounding tribes, the unmarried girls of Dobu remain 
strictly chaste. There are no ceremonial or customary forms 
of licence, and an intrigue would be certainly regarded as an 

A few more words must be said here about sorcery, as this 
is a matter of great importance in all inter-tribal relations. 
The dread of sorcery is enormous, and when the natives visit 
distant parts, this dread is enhanced by the additional awe of 
the unknown and foreign. Besides the flying witches, there 
are, in Dobu, men and women who, by their knowledge of 
magical spells and rites, can inflict disease and cause death. 
The methods of these sorcerers, and all the beliefs clustering 
round this subject are very much the same as those in the 
Trobriands which we shall meet later on. These methods 
are characterised by being very rational and direct, and 
implying hardly any supernatural element. The sorcerer has 
to utter a spell over some substance, and this must be adminis- 
tered by mouth, or else burnt over the fire in the victim's 
hut. The pointing stick is also used by the sorcerers in 
certain rites. 

If his methods are compared with those used by flying 
witches, who eat the heart and lungs, drink the blood, snap 
the bones of their enemies, and moreover possess the powers 
of invisibility and of flying, the Dobuan sorcerer seems to have 
but simple and clumsy means at his disposal. He is also very 
much behind his Mailu or Motu namesakes I say namesakes, 
because sorcerers throughout the Massim are called Bara'u, 
and the same word is used in Mailu, while the Motu use the 
reduplicated Babara'u. The magicians in these parts use 
such powerful methods as those of killing the victim first, 
opening up the body, removing, lacerating or charming the 
inside, then bringing the victim to life again, only that he may 
soon sicken and eventually die.* 

* Professor C. G. Seligman, op. cit,, pp. 170 and 171 ; 187 and 188 about 
the Koita and Motu ; and B. Malinowski, The Mailu, pp. 647-652. 


According to Dobuan belief, the spirits of the dead go to 
the top of Mt. Bwebweso on Normanby Island. This confined 
space harbours the shades of practically all the natives of the 
d'Entrecasteaux Archipelago, except those of Northern 
Goodenough Island, who, as I was told by some local informants, 
go after death to the spirit land of the Trobrianders.* The 
Dobuans have also the belief in a double soul one, shadowy 
and impersonal, surviving the bodily death for a few days only, 
and remaining in the vicinity of the grave, the other the real 
spirit, who goes to Bwebweso. 

It is interesting to note how natives, living on the boundary 
between two cultures and between two types of belief, regard 
the ensuing differences. A native of, say, Southern Boyowa, 
confronted with the question : how it is that the Dobuans 
place spirit-land on Bwebweso, whereas they, the Trobrianders, 
place it in Turn a ? does not see any difficulty in solving the 
problem. He does not regard the difference as due to a 
dogmatic conflict in doctrine. Quite simply he answers : 
" Their dead go to Bwebweso and ours to Tuma." The meta- 
physical laws of existence are not yet considered subject to 
one invariable truth. As human destinies in life change, 
according to varieties in tribal custom, so also the doings of 
the spirit ! An interesting theory is evolved to harmonise 
the two beliefs in a mixed case. There is a belief that if a 
Trobriander were to die in Dobu, when on a Kula expedition, 
he would go for a time to Bwebweso. In due season, the spirits 
of the Trobrianders would sail from Tuma, the spirit land, to 
Bwebweso, on a spirit Kula, and the newly departed one 
would join their party and sail with them back to Tuma. 

On leaving Dobu, we sail the open sea, a sea studded with 
coral patches and sand-banks, and seamed with long barrier 
reefs where treacherous tides, running sometimes as much as 
five knots, make sailing really dangerous, especially for helpless 
native craft. This is the Kula sea, the scene of the inter-tribal 
expeditions and adventures which will be the theme of our 
future descriptions. 

The Eastern shore of Ferguson Island, near Dobu, along 
which we are sailing, consists first of a series of volcanic cones 
and capes, giving the landscape the aspect of something 

* Com p. D. Jenness and A. Ballantyne, ** The Northern d'Entrecasteaux,*' 
Oxford, 1920, Chapter XII. 


unfinished and crudely put together. At the foot of the hills 
there stretches for several miles beyond Dobu a broad alluvial 
flat covered with villages Deide'i, Tu'utauna, Bwayowa, all 
important centres of trade, and the homes of the direct Kula 
partners of the Trobrianders. Heavy fumes can be seen 
floating above the jungle, coming from the hot geysers of 
Deide'i, which spurt up in high jets every few minutes* 

Soon we come abreast of two characteristically shaped, 
dark rocks, one half hidden in the vegetation of the shore, the 
other standing in the sea at the end of a narrow sand-spit 
dividing the two. These are Atu'a'ine and Aturamo'a, two 
men turned into stone, as mythical tradition has it. Here 
the big sailing expeditions, those starting northwards from 
Dobu, as well as those arriving from the North, still make a 
halt just as they have done for centuries, and, under 
observation of many taboos, give sacrificial offerings to the 
stones, with ritual invocations for propitious trade. 

In the lee of these two rocks, runs a small bay with a clean, 
sandy beach, called Sarubwoyna. Here a visitor, lucky enough 
to pass at the right moment of the right season would see a 
picturesque and interesting scene. There before him would 
lie a huge fleet of some fifty to a hundred canoes, anchored 
in the shallow water, with swarms of natives upon them, all 
engaged in some strange and mysterious task. Some of these, 
bent over heaps of herbs, would be mumbling incantations ; 
others would be painting and adorning their bodies. An 
onlooker of two generations ago coming upon the same scene 
would no doubt have been led to suspect that he was watching 
the preparations for some dramatic tribal contest, for one of 
those big onslaughts in which the existence of whole villages 
and tribes were wiped out. It would even have been difficult 
for him to discern from the behaviour of the natives whether 
they were moved more by fear or by the spirit of aggression, 
as both these passions might have been read and correctly 
so into their attitudes and movements. That the scene 
contained no element of warfare ; that this fleet had come here 
from about a hundred miles sailing distance on a well regulated 
tribal visit ; that it had drawn up here for the final and most 
important preparations this would not have been an easy 
guess to make. Nowadays for this is carried out to this 
da,y with undiminished pomp it would be an equally 


picturesque, but of course, tamer affair, since the romance of 
danger has gone from native life. As we learn in the course 
of this study to know more about these natives, their general 
ways and customs, and more especially about their Kula cycle 
of beliefs, ideas and sentiments, we shall be able to look with 
understanding eyes upon this scene, and comprehend this 
mixture of awe with intense, almost aggressive eagerness 
and this behaviour, which appears cowed and fierce at the 
same time. 

Immediately after leaving Sarubwoyna and rounding the 
promontory of the two rocks, we come in sight of the island of 
Sanaroa , a big, sprawling, coral flat, with a range of volcanic 
hills on its western side. On the wide lagoon to the East of 
this island are the fishing grounds, where year after year the 
Trobrianders, returning from Dobu, look for the valuable 
spondylus shell, which, after their arrival home, is worked into 
the red discs, which form one of the main objects of native 
wealth. In the North of Sanaroa there is a stone in one of the 
tidal creeks called Sinatemubadiye'i, once a woman, the sister 
of Atu'a'ine and Aturamo'a, who, with her brothers came in 
here and was petrified before the last stage of the journey. 
She also receives offerings from canoes, coming either way on 
Kula expeditions. 

Sailing further, some fine scenery unfolds itself on our left, 
where the high mountain range comes nearer to the sea shore, 
and where small bays, deep valleys and wooded slopes succeed 
one another. By carefully scanning the slopes, we can see 
small batches of some three to six miserable huts. These are 
the dwellings of the inhabitants, who are of a distinctly lower 
culture than the Dobuans, take no part in the Kula, and in 
olden days were the cowed and unhappy victims of their 

On our right there emerge behind Sanaroa the islands of 
Uwama and Tewara, the latter inhabited by Dobuan natives. 
Tewara is of interest to us, because one of the myths which we 
shall get to know later on makes it the cradle of the Kula. As 
we sail on, rounding one after the other the Eastern promon- 
tories of Fergusson Island, a group of strongly marked monu- 
mental profiles appears far on the horizon from behind the 


receding headlands. These are the Amphlett Islands, the 
link, both geographically and culturally, between the coastal 
tribes of the volcanic region of Dobu and the inhabitants of the 
flat coral archipelago of the Trobriands. This portion of the 
sea is very picturesque, and has a charm of its own even in 
this land of fine and varied scenery. On the main island of 
Fergusson, overlooking the Amphletts from the South, and 
ascending straight out of the sea in a slim and graceful pyramid, 
lies the tall mountain of Koyatabu, the highest peak on the 
island. Its big, green surface is cut in half by the white 
ribbon of a watercourse, starting almost half-way up and 
running down to the sea. Scattered under the lea of Koyatabu 
are the numerous smaller and bigger islands of the Amphlett 
Archipelago steep, rpcky hills, shaped into pyramids, sphynxes 
and cupolas, the whole a strange and picturesque assemblage 
of characteristic forms. 

With a strong South-Easterly wind, which blows here for 
three quarters of the year, we approach the islands very fast, 
and the two most important ones, Gumawana and Ome'a, 
almost seem to leap out of the mist. As we anchor in front of 
Gumawana village at the S.E. end of the island, we cannot 
but feel impressed. Built on a narrow strip of foreshore, open 
to the breakers, and squeezed down to the water's edge by an 
almost precipitously rising jungle at its back, the village has 
been made sea-proof by walls of stone surrounding the houses 
with several bulwarks, and by stone dykes forming small 
artificial harbours along the sea front. The shabby and 
unornamented huts, built on piles, look very picturesque in 
these surroundings (see Plates VII and XLIII). 

The inhabitants of this village, and of the four remaining 
ones in the archipelago, are a queer people. They are a 
numerically weak tribe, easily assailable from the sea, getting 
hardly enough to eat from their rocky islands ; and yet, through 
their unique skill in pottery, their great daring and efficiency 
as sailors, and their central position half way between Dobu 
and the Trobriands, they have succeeded in becoming in 
several respects the monopolists of this part of the world. 
They have also the main characteristics of monopolists : 
grasping and mean, inhospitable and greedy, keen on keeping 
the trade and exchange in their own hands, yet unprepared to 
make any sacrifice towards improving it ; shy, yet arrogant 


The sea-front of the main village on Gumasila (or Gumawana^ 

(See Div. V.) 

[face p. 46 


to anyone who has any dealings with them ; they contrast 
unfavourably with their southern and northern neighbours 
And this is not only the white man's impression.* The 
Trobrianders, as well as the Dobuans, give the Amphlett natives 
a very bad name, as being stingy and unfair in all Kula 
transactions, and as having no real sense of generosity and 

When our boat anchors there, the natives approach it in 
their canoes, offering clay pots for sale. But if we want to go 
ashore and have a look at their village, there is a great commo- 
tion, and all the women disappear from the open places. The 
younger ones run and hide in the jungle behind the village, 
and even the old hags conceal themselves in the houses. So 
that if we want to see the making of pottery, which is almost 
exclusively women's work, we must first lure some old woman 
out of her retreat with generous promises of tobacco and 
assurances of honourable intentions. 

This has been mentioned here, because it is of ethnographic 
interest, as it is not only white men who inspire this shyness ; 
if native strangers, coming from a distance for trade, put in 
for a short time in the Amphletts, the women also disappear 
in this fashion. This very ostentatious coyness is, however, 
not a sham, because in the Amphletts, even more than in 
Dobu, married and unmarried life is characterised by strict 
chastity and fidelity. Women here have also a good deal of 
influence, and take a great part in gardening and the perform- 
ance of garden magic. In social institutions and customs, the 
natives present a mixture of Northern and Southern Massim 
elements. There are no chiefs, but influential elders wield 
authority, and in each village there is a head man who takes 
the lead in ceremonies and other big tribal affairs. Their 
totemir clans are identical with those of Murua (District II). 
Their somewhat precarious food supply comes partly from the 
poor gardens, partly from fishing with kite and fish trap, which, 
however, can only seldom be carried out, and does not yield 
very much. They are not self-supporting, and receive, in 
form of presents and by trade, a good deal of vegetable food 
as well as pigs from the mainland, from Dobu and the 

* I spent about a month in these islands, and found the natives surpris- 
ingly intractable and difficult to work with ethnographicaliy. The Amphlett 
" boys " are renowned as good boat-hands, but in general they are not such 
capable and willing workers as the Dobuans. 


Trobriands. In personal appearance they are very much like 
the Trobrianders, that is, taller than the Dobuans, lighter 
skinned, and with finer features. 

We must now leave the Amphletts and proceed to the 
Trobriand Islands, the scene of most of the occurrences 
described in this book, and the country concerning which 
I possess by far the largest amount of ethnographic 



This shows the type of coastal village, with the natives squatting round, to 

illustrate Div. I 

[face p. 48 


Tokulubakiki, a chiefs son ; Towcsc'i and YobukwaX of the highest and somewhat inferior 

rank respectively. All three show line features and intelligent expressions; they were 
among tny best informants. (Sec Divs. 1 and V.) 



Types of commoners from a Lagoon village, (Sec Div. I.) 



LEAVING the bronzed rocks and the dark jungle of the 
Amphletts for the present for we shall have to revisit them 
in the course of our study, and then shall learn more about 
their inhabitants we sail North into an entirely different 
world of flat coral islands ; into an ethnographic district, which 
stands out by ever so many peculiar manners and customs 
from the rest of Papuo-Melanesia. So far, we have sailed over 
intensely blue, clear seas, where in shallow places the coral 
bottom, with its variety of colour and form, with its wonderful 
plant and fish life, is a fascinating spectacle in itself a sea 
framed in all the splendours of tropical jungle, of volcanic and 
mountainous scenery, with lively watercourses and falls, with 
steamy clouds trailing in the high valleys. From all this we 
take a final farewell as we sail North. The outlines of the 
Amphletts soon fade away in tropical haze, till only Koyatabu's 
slender pyramid, lifted over them, remains on the horizon, 
the graceful form, which follows us even as far as the Lagoon 
of Kiriwina. 

We now enter an opaque, greenish sea, whose monotony is 
broken only by a few sandbanks, some bare and awash, others 
with a few pandanus trees squatting on their air roots, high 
in the sand. To these banks, the Amphlett natives come and 
there they spend weeks on end, fishing for turtle and dugong. 
Here is also laid the scene of several of the mythical incidents 
of primeval Kula. Further ahead, through the misty spray, 
the line of horizon thickens here and there, as if faint pencil 
marks had been drawn upon it. These become more substan- 
tial, one of them lengthens and broadens, the others spring 
into the distinct shapes of small islands, and we find ourselves 
in the big Lagoon of the Trobriands, with Boyowa, the largest 
island, on our right, and with many others, inhabited and 
uninhabited, to the North and North- West. 



The Trobriand Archipelago, also called Boyowa or Kiriwina. 


As we sail in the Lagoon, following the intricate passages 
between the shallows, and as we approach the main island, the 
thick, tangled matting of the low jungle breaks here and there 
over a beach, and we can see into a palm grove, like an interior, 
supported by pillars. This indicates the site of a village. 
We step ashore on to the sea front, as a rule covered with mud 
and refuse, with canoes drawn up high and dry, and passing 
through the grove, we enter the village itself (see Plate VIII). 

Soon we are seated on one of the platforms built in front 
of a yam-house, shaded by its overhanging roof. The round, 
grey logs, worn smooth by contact with naked feet and bodies ; 
the trodden ground of the village-street ; the brown skins of 
the natives, who immediately surround the visitor in large 
groups all these form a colour scheme of bronze and grey, 
unforgetable to anyone, who, like myself, has lived among 
these people. 

It is difficult to convey the feelings of intense interest and 
suspense with which an Ethnographer enters for the first time 
the district that is to be the future scene of his field-work. 
Certain salient features, characteristic of the place, at once 
rivet his attention, and fill him with hopes or apprehensions. 
The appearance of the natives, their manners, their types of 
behaviour, may augur well or ill for the possibilities of rapid 
and easy research. One is on the lookout for symptoms of 
deeper, sociological facts, one suspects many hidden and 
mysterious ethnographic phenomena behind the commonplace 
aspect of things. Perhaps that queer-looking, intelligent 
native is a renowned sorcerer ; perhaps between those two 
groups of men there exists some important rivalry or vendetta 
which may throw much light on the customs and character of 
the people if one can only lay hands upon it ? Such at least 
were /ny thoughts and feelings as on the day of my arrival 
in Boyowa I sat scanning a chatting group of Trobriand natives. 

The great variety in their physical appearance is what 
strikes one first in Boyowa.* There are men and women of 
tall stature, fine bearing, and delicate features, with clear-cut 
aquiline profile and high foreheads, well formed nose and chin, 

* Already Dr. C. G. Seligman has noticed that there are people of an 
outstanding fine physical type among the Northern Massim, of whom the 
Trobrianders form the Western section, people who are " generally taller (often 
very notably so) than the individuals of the short-faced, broad-nosed type, 
in whom the bridge of the nose is very low." Op. cit., p. 8. 


and an open, intelligent expression (see Plates IX, XV, XVII). 
And besides these, there are others with prognatic, negroid 
faces, broad, thick-lipped mouths, narrow foreheads, and a 
coarse expression (see Plates X, XI, XII). The better 
featured have also a markedly lighter skin. Even their hair 
differs, varying from quite straight locks to the frizzly mop of 
the typical Melanesian. They wear the same classes of 
ornaments as the other Massim, consisting mainly of fibre 
armlets and belts, earrings cf turtle shell and spondylus discs, 
and they are very fond of using, for personal decoration, flowers 
and aromatic herbs. In manner they are much freer, more 
familiar and confident, than any of the natives we have so far 
met. As soon as an interesting stranger arrives, half the 
village assembles around him, talking loudly and making 
remarks about him, frequently uncomplimentary, and alto- 
gether assuming a tone of jocular familiarity. 

One of the main sociological features at once strikes an 
observant newcomer -the existence of rank and social differ- 
entiation. Some of the natives very frequently those of the 
finer looking type are treated with most marked deference by 
others, and in return, these chiefs and persons of rank behave 
in quite a different way towards the strangers. In fact, they 
show excellent manners in the full meaning of this word. 

When a chief is present, no commoner dares to remain in 
a physically higher position ; he has to bend his body or squat. 
Similarly, when the chief sits down, no one would dare to 
stand. The institution of definite chieftainship, to which are 
shown such extreme marks of deference, with a sort of rudi- 
mentary Court ceremonial, with insignia of rank and authority, 
is so entirely foreign to the whole spirit of Melanesian tribal 
life, that at first sight it transports the Ethnographer into a 
different world. In the course o f our inquiry, we shall con- 
stantly meet with manifestation of the Kiriwinian chief's 
authority, we shall notice the difference in this respect between 
the Trobrianders and the other tribes, and the resulting 
adjustments of tribal usage. 


Another sociological feature, which forcibly obtrudes itself 
on the visitor's notice is the social position of the women. 
Their behaviour, after the cool aloofness of the Dobuan women, 


This shows the coarse, though fine-looking, type of a commoner woman. 
(See Div. II.) 



Such facial painting and decorations are used when they go on a katuyausi 
expedition. (See Div, II.) 


and the very uninviting treatment which strangers receive 
from those of the Amphletts, comes almost as a shock in its 
friendly familiarity. Naturally, here also, the manners of 
women of rank are quite different from those of low class 
commoners. But, on the whole, high and low alike, though by 
no means reserved, have a genial, pleasant approach, and many 
of them are very fine-looking (see Plates XI, XII). Their 
dress is also different from any so far observed. All the 
Melanesian women in New Guinea wear a petticoat made of 
fibre. Among the Southern Massim, this fibre skirt is long, 
reaching to the knees or below, whereas in the Trobriands it 
is much shorter and fuller, consisting of several layers standing 
out round the body like a ruff (compare the S. Massim women 
on Plates V and VI with the Trobrianders on Plate IV). 
The highly ornamental effect of that dress is enhanced by the 
elaborate decorations made in three colours on the several 
layers forming the top skirt. On the whole, it is very becoming 
to fine young women, and gives to small slender girls a graceful, 
elfish appearance. 

Chastity is an unknown virtue among these natives. At 
an incredibly early age they become initiated into sexual life, 
and many of the innocent looking plays of childhood are not 
as innocuous as they appear. As they grow up, they live in 
promiscuous free-love, which gradually develops into more 
permanent attachments, one of which ends in marriage. But 
before this is reached, unmarried girls are openly supposed to 
be quite free to do what they like, and there are even cere- 
monial arrangements by which the girls of a village repair in 
a body to another place ; there they publicly range themselves 
for inspection, and each is chosen by a local boy, with whom 
she spends a night. This is called katuyausi (see Plate XII). 
Again, when a visiting party arrives from another district, 
food is brought to them by the unmarried girls, who are also 
expected to satisfy their sexual wants. At the big mortuary 
vigils round the corpse of a newly deceased person, people 
from neighbouring villages come in large bodies to take part 
in the wailing and singing. The girls of the visiting party are 
expected by usage to comfort the boys of the bereaved village, 
in a manner which gives much anguish to their official lovers. 
There is another remarkable form of ceremonial licence, in 
which indeed women are openly the initiators. During the 


gardening season, at the time of weeding, the women do 
communal work, and any strange man who ventures to pass 
through the district runs a considerable risk, for the women 
will run after him, seize him, tear off his pubic leaf, and ill- 
treat him orgiastically in the most ignominous manner. Side 
by side with these ceremonial forms of licence, there go, in the 
normal course of events, constant private intrigues, more 
intense during the festive seasons, becoming less prominent as 
garden work, trading expeditions, or harvesting take up the 
energies and attention of the tribe. 

Marriage is associated with hardly any public or private 
rite or ceremony. The woman simply joins her husband in his 
house, and later on, there is a series of exchanges of gifts, which 
in no way can be interpreted as purchase money for the wife. 
As a matter of fact, the most important feature of the Trobriand 
marriage is the fact that the wife's family have to -ontribute, 
and that in a very substantial manner, to the economics of her 
household, and also they have to perform all sorts of services 
for the husband. In her married life, the woman is supposed 
to remain faithful to her husband, but this rule is neither very 
strictly kept nor enforced. In all other ways, she retains a 
great measure of independence, and her husband has to treat 
her well and with consideration. If he does not, the woman 
simply leaves him and returns to her family, and as the husband 
is as a rule economically the loser by her action, he has to exert 
himself to get her back which he does by means of presents 
and persuasions. If she chooses, she can leave him for good, 
and she can always find someone else to marry. 

In tribal life, the position of women is also very high. They 
do not as a rule join the councils- of men, but in many matters 
they have their own way, and control several aspects of tribal 
life. Thus, some of the garden work is their business ; and 
this is considered a privilege as well as a duty. They also look 
after certain stages in the big, ceremonial divisions of food, 
associated with the very complete and elaborate mortuary 
ritual of the Boyowans (see Plate IV). Certain forms of 
magic that performed over a first-born baby, beauty-magic 
made at tribal ceremonies, some classes of sorcery are also 
the monopoly of women. Women of rank share the 
privileges incidental to it, and men of low caste will bend before 
them and observe all the necessary formalities and taboos due 


to a chief. A woman of chief's rank, married to commoner, 
retains her status, even with regard to her husband, and has 
to be treated accordingly. 

The Trobrianders are matrilineal, that is, in tracing descent 
and settling inheritance, they follow the maternal line. A 
child belongs to the clan and village community of its mother, 
and wealth, as well as social position, arc inherited, not from 
father to son, but from maternal uncle to nephew. This rule 
admits of certain important and interesting exceptions, which 
we shall come across in the course of this study. 


Returning to our imaginary first visit ashore, the next 
interesting thing to do, after we have sufficiently taken in the 
appearance and manners of the natives, is to walk round the 
village. Li doing this, again we would come across much, which 
to a trained eye, would reveal at once deeper sociological facts. 
In the Trobriands however, it would be better to make our 
first observations in one of the large, inland villages, situated 
on even, flat ground with plenty of space, so that it has been 
possible to build it in the typical pattern. In the coastal 
villages, placed on marshy ground and coral outcrop, the 
irregularity of the soil and cramped space have obliterated 
the design, and they present quite a chaotic appearance. The 
big villages of the central districts, on the other hands, are 
built one and all with an almost geometrical regularity. 

In the middle, a big circular space is surrounded by a ring 
of yam houses. These latter are built on piles, and present a 
fine, decorative front, with walls of big, round logs, laid cross- 
wise on one another, so as to leave wide interstices through 
which the stored yams can be seen (see Plates XV, XXXII, 
XXXIII). Some of the store-houses strike us at once as 
being better built, larger, and higher than the rest, and these 
have also big, ornamented boards, running round the gable 
and across it. These are the yam houses of the chief or of 
persons of rank. Each yam house also has, as a rule, a small 
platform in front of it, on which groups of men will sit and 
chat in the evening, and where visitors can rest. 

Concentrically with the circular row of yam houses, there 
runs a ring of dwelling huts, and thus a street going all round 
the village is formed between the two rows (see Plates III, IV, 


VIII). The dwellings are lower than the yam houses, and 
instead of being on piles, are built directly on the ground. 
The interior is dark and very stuffy, and the only opening into 
it is through the door, and that is usually closed. Each hut is 
occupied by one family (see Plate XV), that is, husband, wife 
and small children, while adolescent and grown-up boys and 
girls live in separate small bachelor's houses, harbouring sgme 
two to six inmates. Chiefs and people of rank have their 
special, personal houses, besides those of their wives. The 
Chief's house often stands in the central ring of the store-houses 
facing the main place. 

The broad inspection of the village would therefore reveal 
to us the role of decoration as insignia of rank, the existence of 
bachelors' and spinsters' houses, the great importance attached 
to the yam-harvest all these small symptoms which, followed 
up, would lead us deep into the problems of native sociology. 
Moreover, such an inspection would have led us to inquire as 
to the part played by the different divisions of the village in 
tribal life. We should then learn that the baku, the central 
circular space, is the scene of public ceremonies and festivities, 
such as dancing (see Plates XIII, XIV), division of food, 
tribal feasts, mortuary vigils, in short, of all doings that 
represent the village as a whole. In the circular street between 
the stores and living houses, everyday life goes on, that is, the 
preparation of food, the eating of meals, and the usual exchange 
of gossip and ordinary social amenities. The interior of the 
houses is only used at night, or on wet days, and is more a 
sleeping than a living room. The backs of the houses and the 
contiguous groves are the scene of the children's play and the 
women's occupations Further away, remote parts of the 
grove are reserved for sanitary purposes, each sex having its 
own retreat. 

The baku (central place) is the most picturesque part, and 
there the somewhat monotonous colour scheme of the brown 
and grey is broken by the overhanging foliage of the grove, 
seen above the neat fronts and gaudy ornamentation of the 
yam-houses and by the decorations worn by the crowd when a 
dance or ceremony is taking place (see Plates XIII, XXXIII). 
Dancing is done only at one time in the year, in connection 
with the harvest festivities, called milamala, at which season 
also the spirits of the dead return from Tuma, the nether-world, 




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to the villages from which they hail. Sometimes the dancing 
season lasts only for a few weeks or even days, sometimes it 
is extended into a special dancing period called usigola. During 
such a time of festivities, the inhabitants of a village will dance 
day after day, for a month or longer, the period being inaugurated 
by a feast, punctuated by several more, and ending in a big 
culminating performance. At this many villages assist as 
spectators, and distributions of food take place. During an 
usigola, dancing is done in full dress, that is, with facial painting, 
floral decorations, valuable ornaments, and a head-dress ot 
white cockatoo feathers (see Plates XIII, XIV). A perform- 
mance consists always of a dance executed in a ring to the 
accompaniment of singing and drum-beating, both of which 
are done by a group of people standing in the middle. Some 
dances are done with the carved dancing shield. 

Sociologically, the village is an important unit in the 
Trobriands. Even the mightiest chief in the Trobriands 
wields his authority primarily over his own village and only 
secondarily over the district The village community exploit 
jointly their garden lands, perform ceremonies, wage warfare, 
undertake trading expeditions, and sail in the same canoe or 
fleet of canoes as one group. 

After the first inspection of the village, we would be 
naturally interested to know more of the surrounding country, 
and would take a walk through the bush. Here, however, if 
we hoped for a picturesque and varied landscape, we should 
receive a great disappointment. The extensive, flat island 
consists only of one fertile plain, with a low coral ridge running 
along portions of the coast. It is almost entirely under inter- 
mittent cultivation, and the bush, regularly cleared away 
every few years, has no time to grow high. A low, dense 
jungle grows in a matted tangle, and practically wherever 
we move-on the island we walk along between two green walls, 
presenting no variety, allowing of no broader view. The 
monotony is broken only by an occasional clump of old trees 
left standing usually a tabooed place or by one of the 
numerous villages which we meet with every mile or two in 
this densely populated country. The main element, both of 
picturesqueness and ethnographic interest, is afforded by the 
native gardens. Each year about one quarter or one fifth of 
the total area is under actual cultivation as gardens, and these 


are well tended, and present a pleasant change from the 
monotony of the scrub. In its early stages, the garden site 
is simply a bare, cleared space, allowing of a wider outlook 
upon the distant coral ridge in the East, and upon the tall 
groves, scattered over the horizon, which indicate villages or 
tabooed tree clumps. Later on, when the yam-vines, taro, 
and sugar cane begin to grow and bud, the bare brown - soil 
is covered with the fresh green of the tender plants. After 
some more time still, tall, stout poles are planted over each 
yam-plant ; the vine climbs round them, grows into a full, 
shady garland of foliage, and the whole makes the impression 
of a large, exuberant hop-yard. 


Half of the natives' working life is spent in the garden, 
and around it centres perhaps more than half of his interests 
and ambitions. And here we must pause and make an attempt 
to understand his attitude in this matter, as it is typical of the 
way in which he goes about all his work. If we remain under 
the delusion that the native is a happy-go-lucky, lazy child of 
nature, who shuns as far as possible all labour and effort, waiting 
till the ripe fruits, so bountifully supplied by generous tropical 
Nature, fall into his mouth, we shall not be able to understand 
in the least his aims and motives in carrying out the Kula or 
any other enterprise. On the contrary, the truth is that the 
native can and, under circumstances, does work hard, and 
work systematically, with endurance and purpose, nor does he 
wait till he is pressed to work by his immediate needs. 

In gardening, for instance, the natives produce much more 
than they actually require, and in any average year they 
harvest perhaps twice as much as they can eat. Nowadays, 
this surplus is exported by Europeans to feed plantation hands 
in other parts of New Guinea ; in olden days it was simply 
allowed to rot. Again, they produce this surplus in a manner 
which entails much more work than is strictly necessary for 
obtaining the crops. Much time and labour is given up to 
aesthetic purposes, to making the gardens tidy, clean, cleared of 
all debris ; to building fine, solid, fences, to providing specially 
strong and big yam-poles. All these things are to some 
extent required for the growth of the plant ; but there can be 
no doubt that the natives push their conscientiousness far 


beyond the limit of the purely necessary. The non-utilitarian 
element in their garden work is still more clearly perceptible 
in the various tasks which they carry out entirely for the sake 
of ornamentation, in connection with magical ceremonies, and 
in obedience to tribal usage. Thus, after the ground has been 
scrupulously cleared and is ready for planting, the natives 
divide each garden plot into small squares, each a few yards 
in length and width, and this is done only in obedience to usage, 
in order to make the gardens look neat. No self-respecting man 
would dream of omitting to do this. Again, in especially well 
trimmed gardens, long horizontal poles are tied to the yam 
supports in order to embellish them. Another, and perhaps 
the most interesting example of non-utilitarian work is afforded 
by the big, prismatic erections called kamkokola, which serve 
ornamental and magical purposes, but have nothing to do with 
the growth of plants (comp. Plate LIX). 

Among the forces and beliefs which bear upon and regulate 
garden work, perhaps magic is the most important. It is a 
department of its own, and the garden magician, next to the 
chief and the sorcerer, is the most important personage of the 
village. The position is hereditary, and, in each village, a 
special system of magic is handed on in the female line from 
one generation to another. I have called it a system, because 
the magician has to perform a series of rites and spells over the 
garden, which run parallel with the labour, and which, in fact, 
initiate each stage of the work and each new development of 
the plant life\ Even before any gardening is begun at all, 
the magician has to consecrate the site with a big ceremonial 
performance in which all the men of the village take part. 
This ceremony officially opens the season's gardening, and 
only after it is performed do the villagers begin to cut the 
scrub on their plots. Then, in a series of rites, the magician 
inaugurates successively all the various stages which follow one 
another the burning of the scrub, the clearing, the planting, 
the weeding and the harvesting. Also, in another series of 
rites and spells, he magically assists the plant in sprouting, in 
budding, in bursting into leaf, in climbing, in forming the rich 
garlands of foliage, and in producing the edible tubers. 

The garden magician, according to native ideas, thus 
controls both the work of man and the forces of Nature. He 
also acts directly as supervisor of gardening, sees to it that 


people do not skimp their work, or lag behind with it. Thus 
magic is a systematising, regulating, and controlling influence 
in garden work. The magician, in carrying out the rites, sets 
the pace, compels people to apply themselves to certain tasks, 
and to accomplish them properly and in time. Incidentally, 
magic also imposes on the tribe a good deal of extra work, of 
apparently unnecessary, hampering taboos and regulations. 
In the long run, however, there is no doubt that by its influence 
in ordering, systematising and regulating work, magic is 
economically invaluable for the natives.* 

Another notion which must be exploded, once and for ever, 
is that of the Primitive Economic Man of some current economic 
text books. This fanciful, dummy creature, who has been very 
tenacious of existence in popular and semi-popular economic 
literature, and whose shadow haunts even the minds of compe- 
tent anthropologists, blighting their outlook with a pre- 
conceived idea, is an imaginary, primitive man, or savage, 
prompted in all his actions by a rationalistic conception of 
self-interest, and achieving his aims directly and with the 
minimum of effort. Even one well established instance should 
show how preposterous is this assumption that man, and 
especially man on a low level of culture, should be actuated 
by pure economic motives of enlightened self-interest. The 
primitive Trobriander furnishes us with such an instance, 
contradicting this fallacious theory. He works prompted by 
motives of a highly complex, social and traditional nature, 
and towards aims which are certainly not directed towards 
the satisfaction of present wants, or to the direct achievement 
of utilitarian purposes. Thus, in the first place, as we have 
seen, work is not carried out on the principle of the least 
effort. On the contrary, much time and energy is spent on 
wholly unnecessary effort, that is, from a utilitarian point of 
view. Again, work and effort, instead of being merely a means 
to an end, are, in a way an end in themselves. A good garden 
worker in the Trobriands derives a direct prestige from the 
amount of labour he can do, and the size of garden he can till. 
The title tokwaybagula, which means " good " or " efficient 
gardener," is bestowed with discrimination, and borne with 
pride. Several of my friends, renowned as tokwaybagula , 

* I have dealt with the subject of garden work in the Trobriands and 
with its economic importance more fully in an article entitled " The Primitive 
Economics of the Trobriand Islanders " in The Economic Journal, March, 1921. 


would boast to me how long they worked, how much ground 
they tilled, and would compare their efforts with those of less 
efficient men. When the labour, some of which is done commun- 
ally, is being actually carried out, a good deal of competition 
goes on. Men vie with one another in their speed, in their 
thoroughness, and in the weights they can lift, when bringing 
big poles to the garden, or in carrying away the harvested yams. 

The most important point about this is, however, that all, 
or almost all the fruits of his work, and certainly any surplus 
which he can achieve by extra effort, goes not to the man 
hirnseli, but to his relatives-in-law. Without entering into 
details of the system of the apportionment of the harvest, of 
which the sociology is rather complex and would require a 
preliminary account of the Trobriand kinship system and 
kinship ideas, it may be said that about three quarters of a 
man's crops go partly as tribute to the chief, partly as his due 
to his sister's (or mother's) husband and family. 

But although he thus derives practically no personal 
benefit in the utilitarian sense from his harvest, the gardener 
receives much praise and renown from its size and quality, and 
that in a direct and circumstantial manner. For all the crops, 
after being harvested, are displayed for some time afterwards 
in the gardens, piled up in neat, conical heaps under small 
shelters made of yam vine. Each man's harvest is thus 
exhibited for criticism in his own plot, and parties of natives 
walk about from garden to garden, admiring, comparing and 
praising the best results. The importance of the food display 
can be gauged by the fact that, in olden days, when the chief's 
power was much more considerable than now, it was dangerous 
for a man who was not either of high rank himself, or working 
for such a one, to show crops which might compare too favour- 
ably with those of the chief. 

In years when the harvest promises to be plentiful, the 
chief will proclaim a kayasa harvest, that is to say, ceremonial, 
competitive display of food, and then the straining for good 
results and the interest taken in them are still higher. We 
shall meet later on with ceremonial enterprises of the kayasa 
type, and find that they play a considerable part in the Kula. 
All this shows how entirely the real native of flesh and bone 
differs from the shadowy Primitive Economic Man, on whose 
imaginary behaviour many of the scholastic deductions of 


abstract economics are based.* The Trobriander works in a 
roundabout way, to a large extent for the sake of the work 
itself, and puts a great deal of aesthetic polish on the arrange- 
ment and general appearance of his garden. He is not guided 
primarily by the desire to satisfy his wants, but by a very 
complex set of traditional forces, duties and obligations, beliefs 
in magic, social ambitions and vanities. He wants, if he* is a 
man, to achieve social distinction as a good gardener and a good 
worker in general. 

I have dwelt at this length upon these points concerning the 
motives and aims of the Trobrianders in their garden work, 
because, in the chapters that follow, we shall be studying 
economic activities, and the reader will grasp the attitude of 
the natives best if he has it illustrated to him by various 
examples. All that has been said in this matter about the 
Trobrianders applies also to the neighbouring tribes. 

With the help of this new insight gained into the mind of 
the native, and into their social scheme of harvest distribution, 
it will be easier to describe the nature of the chief's authority. 
Chieftainship in the Trobriands is the combination of two 
institutions : first, that of headmanship, or village authority ; 
secondly, that of totemic clanship, that is the division of the 
community into classes or castes, each with a certain more or 
less definite rank. 

In every community in the Trobriands, there is one man 
who wields the greatest authority, though often this does not 
amount to very much. He is, in many cases, nothing more than 
the primus inter pares in a group of village elders, who deliberate 
on all important matters together, and arrive at a decision by 
common consent. It must not be forgotten that there is hardly 
ever much room for doubt or deliberation, as natives commun- 
ally, as well as individually, never act except on traditional and 
conventional lines. This village headman is, as a rule, 

* This does not mean that the general economic conclusions are wrong. 
The economic nature of Man is as a rule illustrated on imaginary savages for 
didactic purposes only, and the conclusions of the authors are in reality based 
on their study of the facts of developed economics. But, nevertheless, quite 
apart from the fact that pedagogically it is a wrong principle to make matters 
look more simple by introducing a falsehood, it is the Ethnographer's duty 
and right to protest against the introduction from outside of false facts into 
his own field of study. 


therefore, not much more than a master of tribal ceremonies, 
and the main speaker within and without the tribe, whenever 
one is needed. 

But the position of headman becomes much more than this, 
when he is a person of high rank, which is by no means always 
the case. In the Trobriands there exist four totemic clans, 
and each of these is divided into a number of smaller sub-clans, 
which could also be called families or castes, for the 
members of each claim common descent from one ancestress, 
and each of them holds a certain, specified rank. These sub- 
clans have also a local character, because the original ancestress 
emerged from a hole in the ground, as a rule somewhere in the 
neighbourhood of their village community. There is not one 
sub-clan in the Trobriands whose members cannot indicate its 
original locality, where their group, in the form of the 
ancestress, first saw the light of the sun. Coral outcrops, 
water-holes, small caves or grottoes, are generally pointed 
out as the original " holes " or " houses/' as they are called. 
Often such a hole is surrounded by one of the tabooed clumps 
of trees alluded to before. Many of them are situated in the 
groves surrounding a village, and a few near the sea shore. 
Not one is on the cultivable land. 

The highest sub-clan is that of the Tabalu, belonging to 
the Malasi totem clan. To this sub-clan belongs the main 
chief of Kiriwina, To'uluwa, who resides in the village of 
Omarakana (see Plate II and Frontispiece). He is in the first 
place the headman of his own village, and in contrast to the 
headmen of low rank, he has quite a considerable amount of 
power. His high rank inspires everyone about him with the 
greatest and most genuine respect and awe, arid the remnants 
of his power are still surprisingly large, even now, when white 
authorities, very foolishly and with fatal results, do their 
utmost to undermine his prestige and influence. 

Not only does the chief by which word I shall designate 
a headman of rank possess a high degree of authority within 
his own village, but his sphere of influence extends far beyond 
it A number of villages are tributary to him, and in several 
respects subject to his authority. In case of war, they are his 
allies, and have to foregather in his village. When he needs 
men to perform some task, he can send to his subject villages, 
and they will supply him with workers. In all big festivities 


the villages of his district will join, and the chief will act as 
master of ceremonies. Nevertheless, for all these services 
rendered to him he has to pay. He even has to pay for any 
tributes received out of his stores of wealth. Wealth, in the 
Trobriands, is the outward sign and the substance of power, 
and the means also of exercising it. But how does he acquire 
his wealth ? And here we come to the main duty of the vassal 
villages to the chief. From each subject village, he takes a 
wife, whose family, according to the Trobriand law, has to 
supply him with large amounts of crops. This wife is always 
the sister or some relation of the headman of the subject 
village, and thus practically the whole community has to work 
for him. In olden days, the chief of Omarakana had up to 
as many as forty consorts, and received perhaps as much as 
thirty to fifty per cent, of all the garden produce of Kiriwina. 
Even now, when his wives number only sixteen, he has 
enormous storehouses, and they are full to the roof with yams 
every harvest time. 

With this supply, he is able to pay for the many services he 
requires, to furnish with food the participants in big feasts, in 
tribal gatherings or distant expeditions. Part of the food he 
uses to acquire objects of native wealth, or to pay for the making 
of them. In brief, through his privilege of practising polygamy, 
the chief is kept supplied with an abundance of wealth in food 
stuffs and in valuables, which he uses to maintain his high 
position ; to organise tribal festivities and enterprises, and to 
pay, according to custom, for the many personal services to 
which he is entitled. 

One point in connection with the chief's authority deserves 
special mention. Power implies not only the possibility of 
rewarding, but also the means of punishing. This in the 
Trobriands is as a rule done indirectly, by means of sorcery. 
The chief has the best sorcerers of the district always at his 
beck and call. Of course he also has to reward them when 
they do him a service. If anyone offends him, or trespasses 
upon his authority, the chief summons the sorcerer, and orders 
that the culprit shall die by black magic. And here the chief 
is powerfully helped in achieving his end by the fact that he 
can do this openly, so that everybody, and the victim himself 
knows that a sorcerer is after him. As the natives are very 
deeply and genuinely afraid of sorcery, the feeling of being 


hunted, of imagining themselves doomed, is in itself enough to 
doom them in reality. Only in extreme cases, does a chief 
inflict direct punishment on a culprit. He has one or two 
hereditary henchmen, whose duty it is to kill the man who 
has so deeply offended him, that actual death is the only 
sufficient punishment. As a matter of fact, very few cases 
of this are on record, and it is now, of course, entirely in 

Thus the chief's position can be grasped only through the 
realisation of the high importance of wealth, of the necessity 
of paying for everything, even for services which are due to 
him, and which could not be withheld. Again, this wealth 
comes to the chief from his relations-in-law, and it is through 
his right to practise polygamy that he actually achieves his 
position, and exercises his power. 

Side by side with this rather complex mechanism of 
authority, the prestige of rank, the direct recognition of his 
personal superiority, give the chief an immense power, even 
outside his district. Except for the few of his own rank, no 
native in the Trobriands will remain erect when the great chief 
of Omarakana approaches, even in these days of tribal dis- 
integration. Wherever he goes, he is considered as the most 
important person, is seated on a high platform, and treated 
with consideration. Of course the fact that he is accorded 
marks of great deference, and approached in the manner as if 
he were a supreme despot, does not mean that perfect good 
fellowship and sociability do not reign in his personal 
relations with his companions and vassals. There is no 
difference in interests or outlook between him and his subjects. 
They sit together and chat, they exchange village gossip, the 
only difference being that the chief is always on his guard, and 
much more reticent and diplomatic than the other, though he 
is no less interested. The chief, unless he is too old, joins in 
dances and even in games, and indeed he takes precedence 
as a matter of course. 

In trying to realise the social conditions among the 
Trobrianders and their neighbours, it must not be forgotten 
that their social organisation is in certain respects complex 
and ill-defined. Besides very definite laws which are strictly 
obeyed, there exist a number of quaint usages, of vague 
graduations in rules, of others where the exceptions are so many, 


that they rather obliterate the rule than confirm it. The narrow 
social outlook of the native who does not see beyond his own 
district, the prevalence of singularities and exceptional cases 
is one of the leading characteristics of native sociology, one 
which for many reasons has not been sufficiently recognised. 
But the main outlines of chieftainship here presented, 
will be enough to give a clear idea of it and of some of 
the flavour of their institutions, as much, in fact, as is 
necessary, in order to understand the chief's role in the 
Kula. But it must to a certain extent be supplemented by 
the concrete data, bearing upon the political divisions of the 

The most important chief is, as said, the one who resides 
in Omarakana and rules Kiriwina, agriculturally the richest and 
most important district. His family, or sub-clan, the Tabalu, 
are acknowledged to have by far the highest rank in all the 
Archipelago. Their fame is spread over the whole Kula 
district ; the entire province of Kiriwina derives prestige from 
its chief, and its inhabitants also keep all his personal taboos, 
which is a duty but also a distinction. Next to the high 
chief, there resides in a village some two miles distant, a 
personage who, though in several respects his vassal, is also 
his main foe and rival, the headman of Kabwaku, and ruler 
of the province of Tilataula. The present holder of this title 
is an old rogue named Moliasi. From time to time, in the old 
days, war used to break out between the two provinces, each 
of which could muster some twelve villages for the fight. These 
wars were never very bloody or of long duration, and they were 
in many ways fought in a competitive, sporting manner, since, 
unlike with the Dobuans and Southern Massim, there were 
neither head-hunting nor cannibalistic practices among the 
Boyowans. Nevertheless, defeat was a serious matter. It 
meant a temporary destruction of the loser's villages, and 
exile for a year or two. After that, a ceremony of reconcilia- 
tion took place, and friend and foe would help to rebuild the 
villages.* The ruler of Tilataula has an intermediate rank, 
and outside his district he does not enjoy much prestige ; but 
within it, he has a considerable amount of power, and a good 

* Compare Professor C. G. Seligxnan, op. cit., pp. 663-668 ; also the Author, 
article on War and Weapons among the Trobriand Islanders," in Man, 
January, 1918. 


deal of wealth, in the shape of stored food and ceremonial 
articles. All the villages under his rule, have, of course, their 
own independent headman, who, being of low rank, have only 
a small degree of local authority. 

In the West of the big, Northern half of Boyowa (that is 
of the main island of the Trobriand Group) are again two 
districts, in past times often at war with one another. One of 
them, Kuboma, subject to the chief of Gumilababa, of high 
rank, though inferior to the chief of Kiriwina, consists of some 
ten inland villages, and is very important as a centre of 
industry. Among these villages are included those of Yalaka, 
Buduwaylaka, Kudukwaykela, where the quicklime is prepared 
for betel chewing, and also the lime pots made. The highly 
artistic designs, burnt in on the lime pots, are the speciality 
of these villagers, but unfortunately the industry is fast 
decaying. The inhabitabts of Luya are renowned for their 
basket work, of which the finest specimens are their production. 
But the most remarkable of all is the village of Bwoytalu, whose 
inhabitants are at the same time the most despised pariahs, the 
most dreaded sorcerers, and the most skilful and industrious 
craftsmen in the island. They belong to several sub-clans, all 
originating in the neighbourhood of the village, near which 
also, according to tradition, the original sorcerer came out of 
the soil in the form of a crab. They eat the flesh of bush-pigs, 
and they catch and eat the stingaree, both objects of strict 
taboos and of genuine loathing to the other inhabitants of 
Northern Boyowa. ^ For this reason they are despised and 
regarded as unclean by the others. In olden days they would 
have to crouch lower and more abjectly than anyone else. No 
man or woman would mate with anyone from Bwoytalu, 
whether in marriage or in an intrigue. Yet in wood carving, 
and especially in the working out of the wonderful, round 
dishes, in the manufacture of plaited fibre work, and in the 
production of combs, they are far more skilful than anyone 
else, and acknowledged to be such ; they are the wholesale 
manufacturers of these objects for export, and they can produce 
work not to be rivalled by any other village. 

The five villages lying on the western coast of the northern 
half, on the shores of the Lagoon, form the district of Kulumata. 
They are all fishing villages, but differ in their methods, and 
each has its own fishing grounds and its own methods of 


exploiting them.* The district is much less homogeneous 
than any of those before mentioned. It posesses no paramount 
chief, and even in war the villagers used not to fight on the 
same side. But it is impossible to enter here into all these 
shades and singularities of political organisation. 

In the southern part of Boyowa, there is first the province 
of Luba, occupying the waist of the island, the part where it 
narrows down to a long isthmus. This part is ruled by a chief 
of high rank, who resides in Olivilevi. He belongs to the same 
family as the chief of Omarakana, and this southern dominion 
is the result of a younger line's having branched off some three 
generations ago. This happened after an unsuccessful war. 
when the whole tribe of Kiriwina fled south to Luba, and lived 
there for two years in a temporary village. The main body 
returned afterwards, but a number remained behind with the 
chief's brother, and thus the village of Olivilevi was founded. 
Wawela, which was formerly a very big village, now consists 
of hardly more than twenty huts. The only one on the Eastern 
shore which lies right on the sea, it is very picturesquely 
situated, overlooking a wide bay with a clean beach. It is of 
importance as the traditional centre of astronomical knowledge. 
From here, for generation after generation up to the present 
day, the calendar of the natives has been regulated. This 
means that some of the most important dates are fixed, especi- 
ally that of the great annual festival, the Milamala, always held 
at full moon. Again, Wawela is one of the villages where the 
second form of sorcery, that of the flying witches, has its main 
Trobriand home. In fact, according to native belief, this form 
of sorcery has its seat only in the Southern half, and is unknown 
to the women in the North, though the Southern witches extend 
their field of operations all over Boyowa. Wawela, which lies 
facing the East, and which is always in close touch with the 
villages of Kitava and the rest of the Marshall Bennetts, shares 
with these islands the reputation of harbouring many women 
who can fly, kill by magic, who also feed on corpses, and are 
especially dangerous to seamen in peril. 

Further down to the South, on the Western shore of the 
Lagoon, we come to the big settlement of Sinaketa, consisting 
of some six villages lying within a few hundred yards from one 

* Compare the Author's article on * 4 Fishing and Fishing Magic in the 
Trobriands," Maw, June, 1918. 


another, but each having its own headman and a certain amount 
of local characteristics. These villages form, however, one 
community for purposes of war and of the Kula. Some of the 
local headmen of Sinaketa claim the highest rank, some are 
commoners ; but on the whole, both the principle of rank and 
the power of the chief break down more and more as we move 
South. Beyond Sinaketa, we meet a few more villages, who 
practice a local Kula, and with whom we shall have to deal 
later on. Sinaketa itself will loom very largely in the descrip- 
tions that follow. The Southern part of the island is sometimes 
called Kaybwagina, but it does not constitute a definite political 
unit, like the Northern districts. 

Finally, south of the main island, divided from it by a 
narrow channel, lies the half-moon-shaped island of Vakuta, 
to which belong four small villages and one big one. Within 
recent times, perhaps four to six generations ago, there came 
down and settled in this last mentioned one a branch of the 
real Tabalu, the chiefly family of highest rank. But their 
power here never assumed the proportions even of the small 
chiefs of Sinaketa. In Vakuta, the typical Papuo-Melanesian 
system of government by tribal elders with one more 
prominent than the others, but not paramount is in full 

The two big settlements of Sinaketa and Vakuta play a 
great part in the Kula, and they also are the only two com- 
munities in the whole Trobriands where the red shell discs are 
made. This industry, as we shall see, is closely associated with 
the Kula. Politically, Sinaketa and Vakuta are rivals, and in 
olden days were periodically at war with one another. 

Another district which forms a definite political and 
cultural unit is the large island of Kayleula, in the West. The 
inhabitants are fishermen, canoe-builders, and traders, and 
undertake big expeditions to the western d'Entrecasteaux 
islands, trading for betel nut, sago, pottery and turtle shell in 
exchange for their own industrial produce. 

It has been necessary to give a somewhat detailed descrip- 
tion of chieftainship and political divisions, as a firm grasp of 
the main, political institutions is essential to the understanding 
of the Kula. All departments of tribal life, religion, magic, 
economics are interwoven, but the social organisation of the 
tribe lies at the foundation of everything else. Thus it is 


essential to bear in mind that the Trobriands form one 
cultural unit, speaking the same language, having the same 
institutions, obeying the same laws and regulations, swayed 
by the same beliefs and conventions. The districts just 
enumerated, into which the Trobriands are subdivided, are 
distinct politically and not culturally ; that is, each of them 
comprises the same kind of natives, only obeying or at least 
acknowledging their own chief, having their own interests and 
pursuits, and in case of war each fighting their own fight. 

Again, within each district, the several village communities 
have each a great deal of independence. A village community 
is represented by a headman, its members make their gardens 
in one block and under the guidance of their own garden 
magician ; they carry on their own feasts and ceremonial 
arrangements, mourn their dead in common, and perform, in 
remembrance of their departed ones, an endless series of food 
distributions. In all big affairs, whether of the district or of 
the tribe, members of a village community keep together, and 
act in one group. 


Right across the political and local divisions cut the 
totemic clans, each having a series of linked totems, with a 
bird as principal one.* The members of these four clans are 
scattered over the whole tribe of Boyowa, and in each village 
community, members of all four are to be found, and even in 
every house, there are at least two classes represented, since 
a husband must be of a different clan from his wife and children. 
There is a certain amount of solidarity within the clan, based 
on the very vague feeling of communal affinity to the totem 
birds and animals, but much more on the many social duties, 
such as the performance of certain ceremonies, especially 
the mortuary ones, which band the members of a clan together. 
But real solidarity obtains only between members of a sub-clan. 
A sub-clan is a local division of a clan, whose members claim 
common ancestry, and hence real identity of bodily substance, 
and also are attached to the locality where their ancestors 
emerged. It is to these sub-clans that the idea of a definite 

* The discovery of the existence of ** linked " totems, and the introduc- 
tion of this term and conception are due to Professor C. G. Seligman. Op. tit., 
pp. 9, 1 1 ; see also Index. 


rank attaches. One of the totemic clans, the Malasi, includes 
the most aristocratic sub-clan, the Tabalu, as well as the lowest 
one, the local division of the Malasi in Bwoytalu. A chief of 
the Tabalu feels very insulted if it is ever hinted that he is 
akin to one of the stingaree-eaters of the unclean village, 
although they are Malasi like himself. The principle of rank 
attached to totemic divisions is to be met only in Trobriand 
sociology ; it is entirely foreign to all the other Papuo- 
Melanesian tribes. 

As regards kinship, the main thing to be remembered is 
that the natives are matrilineal, and that the succession of 
rank, membership in all the social groups, and the inheritance 
of possessions descend in the maternal line. The mother's 
brother is considered the real guardian of a boy, and there is a 
series of mutual duties and obligations, which establish a very 
close and important relation between the two. The real 
kinship, the real identity of substance is considered to exist 
only between a man and his mother's relations. In the first 
rank of these, his brothers and sisters are specially near to him. 
For his sister or sisters he has to work as soon as they are grown 
up and married. But, in spite of that, a most rigorous taboo 
exists between them, beginning quite early in life. No man 
would joke and talk freely in the presence of his sister, or even 
look at her. The slightest allusion to the sexual affairs, whether 
illicit or matrimonial, of a brother or sister in the presence of 
the other, is the deadliest insult and mortification. When a 
man approaches a group of people where his sister is talking, 
either she withdraws or he turns away. 

The father's relation to his children is remarkable 
Physiological fatherhood* is unknown, and no tie of kinship or 
relationship is supposed to exist between father and child, 
except that between a mother's husband and the wife's child. 
Nevertheless, the father is by far the nearest and most affec- 
tionate friend of his children. In ever so many cases, I 
could observe that when a child, a young boy or girl, was in 
trouble or sick ; when there was a question of some one exposing 
himself to difficulties or danger for the child's sake, it was 

* See the Author's article, "Baloma, Spirits of the Dead," Part VII, 
J. R.A.I., 1917, where this statement has been substantiated with abundant 
evidence. Further information obtained during another expedition to the 
Trobriands, established by an additional wealth of detail the complete ignorance 
of physiological fatherhood. 


always the father who worried, who would undergo all the 
hardships needed, and never the maternal uncle. This state 
of things is quite clearly recognised, and explicitly put into 
words by the natives. In matters of inheritance and handing 
over of possessions, a man always shows the tendency to do as 
much for his children as he is able, considering his obligations 
to his sister's family. 

It is difficult, in one phrase or two, to epitomise the distinc- 
tion between the two relations, that between a boy and his 
maternal uncle, and that between a son and a father. The 
best way to put it shortly might be by saying that the maternal 
uncle's position of close relation is regarded as right by law and 
usage, whereas the father's interest and affection for his children 
are due to sentiment, and to the intimate personal relations 
existing between them. He has watched the children grow 
up, he has assisted the mother in many of the small and 
tender cares given to an infant, he has carried the child about, 
and given it such education as it gets from watching the elder 
ones at work, and gradually joining in. In matters of inheri- 
tance, the father gives the children all that he can, and gives 
it freely and with pleasure ; the maternal uncle gives under 
the compulsion of custom what he cannot withhold and keep 
for his own children. 


A few more words must be said about some of the magico- 
religious ideas of the Trobrianders. The main thing that 
struck me in connection with their belief in the spirits of the 
dead, was that they are almost completely devoid of any fear 
of ghosts, of any of these uncanny feelings with which we face 
the idea of a possible return of the dead. All the fears and 
dreads of the natives are reserved for black magic, flying 
witches, malevolent disease-bringing beings, but above all for 
sorcerers and witches. The spirits migrate immediately after 
death to the island of Tuma, lying in the North-West of Boyowa, 
and there they exist for another span of time, underground, 
say some, on the surface of the earth, though invisible, say 
others. They return to visit their own villages once a* year, 
and take part in the big annual feast, milamala, where they 
receive offerings. Sometimes, at this season, they show 
themselves to the living, who are, however, not alarmed by it, 



and in general the spirits do not influence human beings very 
much, for better or worse.* In a number of magical formulae, 
there is an invocation of ancestral spirits, and they receive 
offerings in several rites. But there is nothing of the mutual 
interaction, of the intimate collaboration between man and 
spirit which are the essence of religious cult. 

On the other hand, magic, the attempt of man to govern 
the forces of nature directly, by means of a special lore, is 
all-pervading, and all-important in the Trobriands.f Sorcery 
and garden magic have already been mentioned. Here it must 
suffice to add, that everything that vitally affects the native 
is accompanied by magic. All economic activities have their 
magic ; love, welfare of babies, talents and crafts, beauty and 
agility all can be fostered or frustrated by magic. In 
dealing with the Kula a pursuit of immense importance to 
the natives, and playing on almost all their social passions and 
ambitions we shall meet with another system of magic, and 
we shall have then to go more into detail about the subject 
in general. 

Disease, health, or death are also the result of magic or 
counter-magic. The Trobrianders have a very complex and 
very definite set of theoretical views on these matters. Good 
health is primarily of course the natural, normal state. Minor 
ills may be contracted by exposure, over-eating, over-strain, 
bad food, or other ordinary causes. Such ailments never 
last, and have never any really bad effects, nor are they of 
immediate danger. But, if a man sickens for any length of 
time, and his strength seems to be really sapped, then the evil 
forces are at work. By far the most prevalent form of black 
magic, is that of the bwaga'u, that is the black sorcerer, of 
whom there are a number in each district. Usually even in 
each village there are one or two men more or less dreaded as 
bwaga'u. To be one does not require any special initiation 
except the knowledge of the spells. To learn these that is, 
to learn them in such a manner as to become an acknowledged 

* See the Author's article " Baloma, Spirits of the Dead," quoted above. 

f I am using the words religion and magic according to Sir James Frazer's 
distinction (see " Golden Bough," vol. I). Frazer's definition suits the Kiri- 
winian facts much better than any other one. In fact, although I started my 
field work convinced that the theories of religion and magic expounded in the 
" Golden Bough " are inadequate, I was forced by all my observations in New 
Guinea to come over to Frazer's position. 


bwaga'u can only be done by means of high payment, or in 
exceptional circumstances. Thus, a father will often " give "" 
his sorcery to his son, always, however, without payment ; 
or a commoner will teach it to a man of rank, or a man to his 
sister's son. In these two latter cases a very high payment 
would have to be given. It is important as a characteristic of 
the kinship conditions of this people, that a man -receives 
sorcery gratis from his father, who according to the traditional 
kinship system is no blood-relation, whereas he has to pay for 
it to his maternal uncle, whose natural heir he is. 

When a man has acquired the black art, he applies it to 
a first victim, and this has always to be some one of his own 
family. It is a firm and definite belief among all the natives 
that if a man's sorcery has to be any good, it must first be 
practised on his mother or sister, or any of his maternal kindred. 
Such a matricidal act makes him a genuine bwaga'u. His art 
then can be practised on others, and becomes an established 
source of income. 

The beliefs about sorcery are complex ; they differ according 
as to whether taken from a real sorcerer, or from an outsider ; 
and there are also evidently strata of belief, due perhaps to 
local variation, perhaps to superimposed versions. Here a 
short summary must suffice. 

When a sorcerer wants to attack someone, the first step is 
to cast a light spell over his habitual haunts, a spell which will 
affect him with a slight illness and compel him to keep to his 
bed in his house, where he will try to cure himself by lying 
over a small fire and warming his body. His first ailment, 
called kaynagola, comprises pains in the body, such as (speaking 
from our point of view) would be brought about by rheumatism, 
general cold, influenza, or any incipient disease. When the 
victim is in bed, with a fire burning under him, and also, as a 
rule, one in the middle of the hut, the bwaga'u stealthily 
approaches the house. He is accompanied by a few night- 
birds, owls and night- jars, which keep guard over him, and he 
is surrounded by a halo of legendary terrors which make all 
natives shiver at the idea of meeting a sorcerer on such a 
nocturnal visit. He then tries to insert through the thatch 
wall a bunch of herbs impregnated with some deadly charm and 
tied to a long stick, and these he attempts to thrust into the 
fire over which the sick man is lying. If he succeeds, the fumes 


of the burnt leaves will be inhaled by the victim, whose name 
has been uttered in the charm, and he will be seized by one 
or other of the deadly diseases of which the natives have a long 
list, with a definite symptomatology, as well as a magical 
etiology. Thus the preliminary sorcery was necessary, in 
order to keep the victim to his house, in which spot only 
can the mortal magic be performed. 

Of course, the sick man is on the defensive as well. First 
of all, his friends and relatives this is one of the main duties 
of the wife's brothers will keep a close watch over him, 
sitting with spears round the hut, and at all approaches to it. 
Often have I come across such vigils, when walking late at 
night through some village. Then, the services of some rival 
bwaga'u are invoked (for the art of killing and curing is always 
in the same hand), and he utters counter-spells, so that at times 
the efforts of the first sorcerer, even should he succeed in 
burning the herbs according to the dreaded toginivayu rite, are 

Should this be so, he resorts to the final and most fatal rite, 
that of the pointing-bone. Uttering powerful spells, the 
bwaga'u and one or two accomplices, boil some coco-nut oil 
in a small pot, far away in a dense patch of jungle. Leaves of 
herbs are soaked in the oil, and then wrapped round a sharp 
stingaree spine, or some similar pointed object, and the final 
incantation, most deadly of all, is chanted over it. Then the 
bwaga'u steals towards the village, catches sight of his victim, 
and hiding himself behind a shrub or house, points the magical 
dagger at him. In fact, he violently and viciously turns it 
round in the air, as if to stab the victim, and to twist and 
wrench the point in the wound. This, if carried out properly, 
and not counteracted by a still more powerful magician, will 
never fail to kill a man. 

I have here summarised the bare outlines of the successive 
application of black magic as it is believed by sorcerer and 
outsider alike to be done, and to act in producing disease and 
death. There can be no doubt that the acts of sorcery are 
really carried out by those who believe themselves to possess 
the black powers. It is equally certain that the nervous 
strain of knowing one's life to be threatened by a bwaga'u 
is very great, and probably it is much worse when a man 
knows that behind the sorcerer stands the might of the chief 


and this apprehension certainly contributes powerfully towards 
the success of black magic. On the other hand, a chief, if 
attacked, would have a good guard to protect him, and the 
most powerful wizards to back him up, and also the authority 
to deal directly with anyone suspected of plotting against him. 
Thus sorcery, which is one of the means of carrying on the 
established order, is in its turn strengthened by it. 

If we remember that, as in all belief in the miraculous and 
supernatural, so also here, there is the loophole of counter- 
forces, and of the sorcery being incorrectly or inefficiently 
applied, spoilt by broken taboos, mispronounced spells, or 
what not ; again, that suggestion strongly influences the 
victim, and undermines his natural resistance ; further that 
all disease is invariably traced back to some sorcerer or other, 
who, whether it is true or not, often frankly admits his responsi- 
bility in order to enhance his reputation, there is then no 
difficulty in understanding why the belief in black magic 
flourishes, why no empirical evidence can ever dispel it, and 
why the sorcerer no less than the victim, has confidence in 
his own powers. At least, the difficulty is the same as in 
explaining many contemporary examples of results achieved 
by miracles and faith healing, such as Christian Science or 
Lourdes, or in any cure by prayers and devotion. 

Although by far the most important of them all, the 
bwaga'u is only one among the beings who can cause disease 
and death. The often-mentioned flying-witches, who come 
always from the Southern half of the island, or from the East, 
from the islands of Kitava, Iwa, Gava, or Murua, are even 
more deadly. All very rapid and violent diseases, more 
especially such as show no direct, perceptible symptoms, are 
attributed to the mulukwami, as they are called. Invisible, 
they fly through the air, and perch on trees, house-tops, and 
other high places. From there, they pounce upon a man or 
woman and remove and hide " the inside," that is, the lungs, 
heart and guts, or the brains and tongue. Such a victim will 
die within a day or two, unless another witch, called for the 
purpose and well paid, goes in search and restores the missing 
" inside." Of course, sometimes it is too late to do it, as the meal 
has been eaten in the meantime ! Then the victim must die. 

Another powerful agency of death consists of the tauva'u, 
non-human though anthropomorphic beings, who cause all 


epidemic disease. When, at the end of the rainy season the 
new and unripe yams have come in, and dysentery rages, 
decimating the villages ; or, when in hot and damp years an 
infectious disease passes over the district, taking heavy toll, 
this means that the tauva'u have come from the South, and 
that, invisible, they march through the villages, rattling their 
lime gourds, and with their sword-clubs or sticks hitting their 
victims, who immediately sicken and die. The tauva'u can, at 
will, assume the shape of man or reptile. He appears then as 
a snake, or crab, or lizard, and you recognise him at once, for 
he will not run away from you, and he has as a rule a patch 
of some gaudy colour on his skin. It would be a fatal thing 
to kill such a reptile. On the contrary, it has to be taken up 
cautiously and treated as a chief ; that is to say, it is placed 
on a high platform, and some of the valuable tokens of wealth 
a polished green stone blade, or a pair of arm-shells, or a 
necklace of spondylus shell beads must be put before it as an 

It is very interesting to note that the tauva'u are believed 
to come from the Northern coast of Normanby Island, from the 
district of DuVu, and more especially from a place called 
Sewatupa. This is the very place where, according to Dobuan 
belief and myth, their sorcery originated. Thus, what to the 
local tribes of the originating place is ordinary sorcery, 
practised by men, becomes, when looked at from a great 
distance, and from an alien tribe, a non-human agency, 
endowed with such super-normal powers as changing of 
shape, invisibility, and a direct, infallible method of 
inflicting death. 

The tauva'u have sometimes sexual intercourse with 
women ; several present cases are on record, and such women 
who have a familar tauva'u become dangerous witches, though 
how they practise their witchcraft is not quite clear to the 

A much less dangerous being is the tokway, a wood sprite, 
living in trees and rocks, stealing crops from the field and from 
the yam-houses, and inflicting slight ailments. Some men in 
the past have acquired the knowledge of how to do this from 
the tokway, and have handed it on to their descendants. 

So we see that, except for the very light ailments which 
pass quickly and easily, all disease is attributed to sorcery. 


Even accidents are not believed to happen without cause. 
That this is the case also with drowning, we shall learn more 
in detail, when we have to follow the Trobrianders in their 
dangerous sea-trips. Natural death, caused by old age, is 
admittedly possible, but when I asked in several concrete 
cases, in which age was obviously the cause, why such and such 
a man died, I was always told that a bwaga'u was at the back 
of it. Only suicide and death in battle have a different place 
in the mind of the natives, and this is also confirmed by the 
belief that people killed in war, those that commit suicide, 
and those who are frewitched to death have, each class, their 
own way to the other world. 

This sketch of Trobriand tribal life, belief and customs 
must suffice, and we shah 1 still have opportunities of enlarging 
upon these subjects that most matter to us for the present 


Two more districts remain to be mentioned, through which 
the Kula trade passes on its circuit, before it returns to 
the place from where we started. One of them is the Eastern 
portion of the Northern Massim, comprising the Marshall 
Bennett Islands (Kitava, Iwa, Gawa, Kwayawata), and Wood- 
lark Island (Murua), with the small group of Nada Islands 
The other district is that of St. Aignan Island, called by the 
natives Masima, or Misima, with the smaller island Panayati. 

Looking from the rocky shores of Boyowa, at its narrowest 
point, we can see over the white breakers on the fringing reef 
and over the sea, here always blue and limpid, the silhouette 
of a flat-topped, low rock, almost due East, This is Kitava, 
To the Trobrianders of the Eastern districts, this island and 
those behind it are the promised land of the Kula, just as Dobu 
is to the natives of Southern Boyowa. But here, unlike in 
the South, they have to deal with tribesmen who speak their 
own language, with dialectic differences only, and who have 
very much the same institutions and customs. In fact, the 
nearest island, Kitava, differs only very little from the Tro- 
briands. Although the more distant islands, especially 
Murua, have a slightly different form of totemism, with hardly 
any idea of rank attached to the sub-clans, and consequently 
no chieftainship in the Trobriand sense, yet their social 


organisation is also much the same as in the Western province.* 
I know the natives only from having seen them very frequently 
and in great numbers in the Trobriands, where they come on 
Kula expeditions. In Murua, however, I spent a short time 
doing field work in the village of Dikoyas. In appearance, 
dress, ornaments and manners, the natives are indistinguishable 
from the Trobrianders. Their ideas and customs in matters of 
sex, marriage, and kinship are, with variations in detail only, 
the same as in Boyowa. In beliefs and mythology, they also 
belong to the same culture. 

To the Trobrianders, the Eastern islands are also the chief 
home and stronghold of the dreaded mulukwausi (flying 
witches); the land whence love magic came, originating in the 
island of Iwa ; the distant shores towards which the mythical 
hero Tudava sailed, performing many feats, till he finally 
disappeared, no one knows where. The most recent version is 
that he most likely finished his career in the white man's 
country. To the Eastern islands, says native belief, the 
spirits of the dead, killed by sorcery, go round on a short visit 
not stopping there, only floating through the air like clouds, 
before they turn round to the North- West to Tuma. 

From these islands, many important products come to 
Boyowa (the Trobriands), but none half as important as the 
tough, homogeneous green-stone, from which all their imple- 
ments were made in the past, and of which the ceremonial axes 
are made up till now. Some of these places are renowned for 
their yam gardens, especially Kitava, and it is recognised that 
the best carving in black ebony comes from there. The most 
important point of difference between the natives of this 
district and the Trobrianders, lies in the method of mortuary 
distributions, to which subject we shall have to return in a 
later part of the book, as it is closely connected with Kula. 

From Murua (Woodlark Island) the Kula track curves over 
to the South in two different branches, one direct to Tubetube, 
and the other to Misima, and thence to Tubetube and Wari. 
The district of Misima is almost entirely unknown to me I 
have only spoken once or twice with natives of this island, 
and there is not, to my knowledge, any reliable published 

* Compare Professor C. G. Sehgman, op. cit., the parallel description of 
the social institutions in the Trobriands, Marshall Bennetts, Woodlark Island 
and the Loughlands, Chapters XLIX LV. 


information about that district, so we shall have to pass it 
over with a very few words. This is, however, not so alarming, 
because it is certain, even from the little I know about them, 
that the natives do not essentially differ from the other Massim. 
They are totemic and matrilineal ; there is no chieftainship, 
and the form of authority is the same as in the Southern 
Massim. Their sorcerers and witches resemble thpse of the 
Southern Massim and Dobuans. In industries, they specialise 
in canoe-building, and in the small island of Panayati produce 
the same type of craft as the natives of Gawa and Woodlark 
Island, slightly different only from the Trobriand canoe. In 
the island of Misima, a very big supply of areca (betel) nut is 
produced, as there is a custom of planting a number of these 
nuts after a man's death. 

The small islands of Tubetube and Wari, which form the 
final link of the Kula, lie already within the district of the 
Southern Massim. In fact, the island of Tubetube is one of 
the places studied in detail by Professor Seligman, and its 
ethnographical description is one of three parallel monographs 
which form the division of the Southern Massim in the treatise 
so often quoted. 

Finally, I want to point out again that the descriptions 
of the various Kula districts given in this and in the 
previous chapter, though accurate in every detail, are 
not meant to be an exhaustive ethnographic sketch 
of the tribes. They have been given with a few light 
touches in order to produce a vivid and so-to-speak personal 
impression of the various type of natives, and countries and 
of cultures. If I have succeeded in giving a physiognomy to 
each of the various tribes, to the Trobrianders, to the 
Amphlettans, the Dobuans, and the Southern Massim, and in 
arousing some interest in them, the main purpose has been 
achieved, and the necessary ethnographic background for the 
Kula has been supplied. 


S s 





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-w OJ 

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HAVING thus described the scene, and the actors, let us now 
proceed to the performance. The Kula is a form of exchange, 
of extensive, inter-tribal character ; it is carried on by com- 
munities inhabiting a wide ring of islands, which form a 
closed circuit. This circuit can be seen on Map V, where it 
is represented by the lines joining a number of islands to the 
North and East of the East end of New Guinea. Along this 
route, articles of two kinds, and these two kinds only, are 
constantly travelling in opposite directions. In the direction 
of the hands of a clock, moves constantly one of these kinds 
long necklaces of red shell, called soulava (Plates XVII I and 
XIX). In the opposite direction moves the other kind 
bracelets of white shell called mwali (Plates XVI and XVII). 
Each of these articles, as it travels in its own direction on the 
closed circuit, meets on its way articles of the other class, and 
is constantly being exchanged for them. Every movement 
of the Kula articles, every detail of the transactions is fixed 
and regulated by a set of traditional rules and conventions, 
and some acts of the Kula are accompanied by an elaborate 
magical ritual and public ceremonies. 

On every island and in every village, a more or less limited 
number of men take part in the Kula that is to say, receive 
the goods, hold them for a short time, and then pass them on. 
Therefore every man who is in the Kula, periodically though 
not regularly, receives one or several mwali (arm-shells), or a 
soulava (necklace of red shell discs), and then has to hand it 
on to one of his partners, from whom he receives the opposite 
commodity in exchange. Thus no man ever keeps any of the 
articles for any length of time in his possession. One trans- 
action does not finish the Kula relationship, the rule being 


" once in the Kula, always in the Kula," and a partnership 
between two men is a permanent and lifelong affair. Again, 
any given mwali or soulava may always be found travelling 
and changing hands, and there is no question of its ever settling 
down, so that the principle " once in the Kula, always in the 
Kula " applies also to the valuables themselves. 

The ceremonial exchange of the two articles is the main, 
the fundamental aspect of the Kula. But associated with it, 
and done under its cover, we find a great number of secondary 
activities and features. Thus, side by side with the ritual 
exchange of arm-shells and necklaces, the natives carry on 
ordinary trade, bartering from one island to another a great 
number of utilities, often unprocurable in the district to which 
they are imported, and indispensable there. Further, there are 
other activities, preliminary to the Kula, or associated with it, 
such as the building of sea-going canoes for the expeditions, cer- 
tain big forms of mortuary ceremonies, and preparatory taboos. 

The Kula is thus an extremely big and complex institution, 
both in its geographical extent, and in the manifoldness of its 
component pursuits. It welds together a condiderable number 
of tribes, and it embraces a vast complex of activities, inter- 
connected, and playing into one another, so as to form one 
organic whole. 

Yet it must be remembered that what appears to us an 
extensive, complicated, and yet well ordered institution is the 
outcome of ever so many doings and pursuits, carried on by 
savages, who have no laws or aims or charters definitely laid 
down. They have no knowledge of the total outline of any of 
their social structure. They know their own motives, know 
the purpose of individual actions and the rules which apply 
to them, but how, out of these, the whole collective institution 
shapes, this is beyond their mental range. Not even the most 
intelligent native has any clear idea of the Kula as a big, 
organised social construction, still less of its sociological function 
and implications. If you were to ask him what the Kula is, 
he would answer by giving a few details, most likely by giving 
his personal experiences and subjective views on the Kula, 
but nothing approaching the definition just given here. Not 
even a partial coherent account could be obtained. For the 
integral picture does not exist in his mind ; he is in it, and 
cannot see the whole from the outside. 


The integration of all the details observed, the achievement 
of a sociological synthesis of all the various, relevant symptoms, 
is the task of the Ethnographer. First of all, he has to find 
out that certain activities, which at first sight might appear 
incoherent and not correlated, have a meaning. He then has 
to find out what is constant and relevant in these activities, 
and what accidental and inessential, that is, to find out the 
laws and rules of all the transactions. Again, the Ethno- 
grapher has to construct the picture of the big institution, very 
much as the physicist constructs his theory from the experi- 
mental data, which always have been within reach of everybody, 
but which needed a consistent interpretation. I have touched 
on this point of method in the Introduction (Divisions V and 
VI), but I have repeated it here, as it is necessary to grasp it 
clearly in order not to lose the right perspective of conditions 
as they really exist among the natives. 


In giving the above abstract and concise definition, I had 
to reverse the order of research, as this is done in ethnographic 
field-work, where the most generalised inferences are obtained 
as the result of long inquiries and laborious inductions. The 
general definition of the Kula will serve as a sort of plan or 
diagram in our further concrete and detailed descriptions. 
And this is the more necessary as the Kula is concerned with 
the exchange of wealth and utilities, and therefore it is an 
economic institution, and there is no other aspect of primitive 
life where our knowledge is more scanty and our understanding 
more superficial than in Economics. Hence misconception is 
rampant, and it is necessary to clear the ground when 
approaching any economic subject. 

Thus in the Introduction we called the Kula a " form of 
trade/' and we ranged it alongside other systems of barter. 
This is quite correct, if we give the word " trade " a sufficiently 
wide interpretation, and mean by it any exchange of goods. 
But the word " trade " is used in current Ethnography and 
economic literature with so many different implications that a 
whole lot of misleading, preconceived ideas have to be brushed 
aside in order to grasp the facts correctly. Thus the aprioric 
current notion of primitive trade would be that of an exchange 
of indispensable or useful articles, done without much ceremony 


or regulation, under stress of dearth or need, in spasmodic, 
irregular intervals and this done either by direct barter, 
everyone looking out sharply not to be done out of his due, or, 
if the savages were too timid and distrustful to face one another, 
by some customary arrangement, securing by means of heavy 
penalties compliance in the obligations incurred or imposed.* 
Waiving for the present the question how far this conception 
is valid or not in general in my opinion it is quite misleading 
we have to realise clearly that the Kula contradicts in 
almost every point the above definition of " savage trade," 
It shows to us primitive exchange in an entirely different 

The Kula is not a surreptitious and precarious form of 
exchange. It is, quite on the contrary, rooted in myth, 
backed by traditional law, and surrounded with magical 
rites. All its main transactions are public and ceremonial, 
and carried out according to definite rules. It is not done on 
the spur of the moment, but happens periodically, at dates 
settled in advance, and it is carried on along definite trade 
routes, which must lead to fixed trysting places. Sociologically, 
though transacted between tribes differing in language, culture, 
and probably even in race, it is based on a fixed and permanent 
status, on a partnership which binds into couples some thousands 
of individuals. This partnership is a lifelong relationship, it 
implies various mutual duties and privileges, and constitutes 
a type of inter-tribal relationship on an enormous scale. As to 
the economic mechanism of the transactions, this is based on a 
specific form of credit, which implies a high degree of mutual 

* By " current view," I mean such as is to be found in text-books and 
in passing remarks, scattered through economic and ethnological literature. 
As a matter of fact, Economics is a subject very seldom touched upon either 
in theoretical works on Ethnology, or in accounts of field-work. I have enlarged 
on this deficiency in the article on " Primitive Economics," published in the 
Economic Journal, March, 1921. 

The best analysis of the problem of savage economy is to be found, in 
spite of its many shortcomings, in K. Biicher's " Industrial Evolution," English 
Translation, 1901. On primitive trade, however, his views are inadequate. 
In accordance with his general view that savages have no national economy, 
he maintains that any spread of goods among natives is achieved by non-econo- 
mic means, such as robbery, tributes and gifts. The information contained 
in the present volume is incompatible with Bucher's views, nor could he have 
maintained them had he been acquainted with Barton's description of the 
Hin (contained in Seligman's '* Melanesians.") 

A summary of the research done on Primitive Economics, showing 
incidentally, how little real, sound work has been accomplished, will be found 
in Pater W. Kopper's " Die Ethnologische Wirtschaftsforschung " in Anthropos, 
X XI, 1915-16, pp. 611-651, and 971-1079. The article is very usefu', 
where the author summarises the views of others. 


trust and commercial honour and this refers also to the 
subsidiary, minor trade, which accompanies the Kula proper. 
Finally, the Kula is not done under stress of any need, since its 
main aim is to exchange articles which are of no practical use. 

From the concise definition of Kula given at the beginning 
of this chapter, we see that in its final essence, divested of all 
trappings and accessories, it is a very simple affair, which at 
first sight might even appear tame and unromantic. After all, 
it only consists of an exchange, interminably repeated, of two 
articles intended for ornamentation, but not even used for 
that to any extent. Yet this simple action this passing from 
hand to hand of two meaningless and quite useless objects 
has somehow succeeded in becoming the foundation of a big 
inter-tribal institution, in being associated with ever so many 
other activities, Myth, magic and tradition have built up 
around it definite ritual and ceremonial forms, have given it 
a halo of romance and value in the minds of the natives, have 
indeed created a passion in their hearts for this simple exchange. 

The definition of the Kula must now be amplified, and we 
must describe one after the other its fundamental character- 
istics and main rules, so that it may be clearly grasped by 
what mechanism the mere exchange of two articles results in 
an institution so vast, complex, and deeply rooted. 


First of all, a few words must be said about the two 
principal objects of exchange, the arm-shells (mwali) and the 
necklaces (soulava). The arm-shells are obtained by breaking 
off the top and the narrow end of a big, cone-shaped shell 
(Conns millepunctatus), and then polishing up the remaining 
ring. These bracelets are highly coveted by all the Papuo- 
Melanesians of New Guinea, and they spread even into the pure 
Papuan district of the Gulf.* The manner of wearing the 
arm-shells is illustrated by Plate XVII, where the men have 
put them on on purpose to be photographed. 

The use of the small discs of red spondylus shell, out of 
which the soulava are made, is also of a very wide diffusion. 

* Professor C. G. Seligman, op. tit., p. 93, states that arm-shells, toea, as 
they are called by the Motu, are traded from the Port Moresby district westward 
to the Gulf of Papua. Among the Motu and Koita, near Port Moresby, they 
are highly valued, and nowadays attain very high prices, up to 30, much more 
than is paid for the same article among the Massim. 


There is a manufacturing centre of them in one of the villages 
in Port Moresby, and also in several places in Eastern New 
Guinea, notably in Rossell Island, and in the Trobriands. I 
have said " use " on purpose here, because these small beads, 
each of them a flat, round disc with a hole in the centre, 
coloured anything from muddy brown to carmine red, are 
employed in various ways for ornamentation They are most 
generally used as part of earrings, made of rings of turtle shell, 
which are attached to the ear lobe, and from which hang a 
cluster of the shell discs. These earrings are very much worn, 
and, especially among the Massim, you see them on the ears 
of every second man or woman, while others are satisfied with 
turtle shell alone, unornamented with the shell discs. Another 
everyday ornament, frequently met with and worn, especially 
by young girls and boys, consists of a short necklace, just 
encircling the neck, made of the red spondylus discs, with one 
or more cowrie shell pendants. These shell discs can be, and 
often are, used in the make-up of the various classes of the 
more elaborate ornaments, worn on festive occasions only. 
Here, however, we are more especially concerned with the very 
long necklaces, measuring from two to five metres, made of 
spondylus discs, of which there are two main varieties, one, 
much the finer, with a big shell pendant, the other made of 
bigger discs, and with a few cowrie shells or black banana seeds 
in the centre (see Plate XVIII). 

The arm-shells on the one hand, and the long spondylus 
shell strings on the other, the two main Kula articles, are 
primarily ornaments. As such, they are used with the most 
elaborate dancing dress only, and on very festive occasions 
such as big ceremonial dances, great feasts, and big gatherings, 
where several villages are represented, as can be seen in Plate VI. 
Never could they be used as everyday ornaments, nor on 
occasions of minor importance, such as a small dance in the 
village, a harvest gathering, a love-making expedition, when 
facial painting, floral decoration and smaller though not quite 
everyday ornaments are worn (see Plates XII and XIII). 
But even though usable and sometimes used, this is not the 
main function of these articles. Thus, a chief may have 
several shell strings in his possession, and a few arm-shells. 
Supposing that a big dance is held in his or in a neighbouring 
village, he will not put on his ornaments himself if he goes to 


assist at it, unless he intends to dance and decorate himself, 
but any of his relatives, his children or his friends and even 
vassals, can have the use of them for the asking. If you go 
to a feast or a dance where there are a number of men wearing 
such ornaments, and ask anyone of them at random to whom it 
belongs, the chances are that more than half of them will 
answer that they themselves are not the owners, but that they 
had the articles lent to them. These objects are not owned in 
order to be used ; the privilege of decorating oneself with them 
is not the real aim of possession. 

Indeed and this is more significant by far the greater 
number of the arm-shells, easily ninety per cent., are of too 
small a size to be worn even by young boys and girls. A few 
are so big and valuable that they would not be worn at all, 
except once in a decade by a very important man on a very 
festive day. Though all the shell-strings can be worn, some of 
them are again considered too valuable, and are cumbersome 
for frequent use, and would be worn on very exceptional 
occasions only. 

This negative description leaves us with the questions : 
why, then, are these objects valued, what purpose do they 
serve ? The full answer to this question will emerge out of the 
whole story contained in the following chapters, but an 
approximate idea must be given at once. As it is always 
better to approach the unknown through the known, let us 
consider for a moment whether among ourselves we have not 
some type of objects which play a similar role and which are 
used and possessed in the same manner. When, after a six 
years 1 absence in the South Seas and Australia, I returned to 
Europe and did my first bit of sight-seeing in Edinburgh Castle, 
I was shown the Crown jewels. The keeper told many stories 
of how they were worn by this or that king or queen on such 
and such occasion, of how some of them had been taken over 
to London, to the great and just indignation of the whole 
Scottish nation, how they were restored, and how now everyone 
can be pleased, since they are safe under lock and key, and no 
one can touch them. As I was looking at them and thinking 
how ugly, useless, ungainly, even tawdry they were, I had the 
feeling that something similar had been told to me of late, and 
that I had seen many other objects of this sort, which made a 
similar impression on me. 



On the left, the soulava, or bagl, the real Kula article. On 
the right, the katudababile (or samakupa, as it is called among 
the Southern Massim), made of bigger discs, manufactured 
in the villages of Sinakcta and Vakuta (Trobriand Islands). 
This latter article does not play any important part in the 
Kula. (See Div. Ill : Ch. XIV, Div. II : Ch. XV, Divs. 
II and III.) 


And then arose before me the vision of a native village on 
coral soil, ond a small, rickety platform temporarily erected 
under a pandanus thatch, surrounded by a number of brown, 
naked men, and one of them showing me long, thin red strings, 
and big, white, worn-out objects, clumsy to sight and greasy 
to touch. With reverence he also would name them, and tell 
their history, and by whom and when they were worn, and how 
they changed hands, and how their temporary possession was 
a great sign of the importance and glory of the village. The 
analogy between the European and the Trobriand vaygu'a 
(valuables) must be delimited with more precision. The 
Crown Jewels, in fact, any heirlooms too valuable and too 
cumbersome to be worn, represent the same type as vaygu'a 
in that they are merely possessed for the sake of possession 
itself, and the ownership of them with the ensuing renown is 
the main source of their value. Also both heirlooms and 
vaygu'a are cherished because of the historical sentiment 
which surrounds them. However ugly, useless, and according 
to current standards valueless an object may be, if it has 
figured in historical scenes and passed through the hands of 
historic persons, and is therefore an unfailing vehicle of import- 
ant sentimental associations, it cannot but be precious to us. 
This historic sentimentalism, which indeed has a large share 
in our general interest in studies of past events, exists also in 
the South Seas. Every really good Kula article has its individual 
name, round each there is a sort of history and romance in the 
traditions of the natives. Crown jewels or heirlooms are 
insignia of rank and symbols of wealth respectively, and in 
olden days with us, and in New Guinea up till a few years 
ago, both rank and wealth went together. The main point 
of difference is that the Kula goods are only in possession for 
a time, whereas the European treasure must be permanently 
owned in order to have full value. 

Taking a broader, ethnological view of the question, we 
may class the Kula valuables among the many " ceremonial " 
objects of wealth ; enormous, carved and decorated weapons, 
stone implements, articles of domestic and industrial nature, 
too well decorated and too clumsy for use. Such things are 
usually called " ceremonial," but this word seems to cover a 
great number of meanings and much that has no meaning at 
all. In fact, very often, especially on museum labels, an article 


is called " ceremonial " simply because nothing is .known about 
its uses and general nature. Speaking only about museum 
exhibits from New Guinea, I can say that many so-called 
ceremonial objects are nothing but simply overgrown objects 
of use, which preciousness of material and amount of labour 
expended have transformed into reservoirs of condensed 
economic value. Again, others are used on festive occasions, 
but play no part whatever in rites and ceremonies, and serve 
for decoration only, and these might be called objects of parade 
(comp. Chap VI, Div. I). Finally, a number of these articles 
function actually as instruments of a magical or religious rite, 
and belong to the intrinsic apparatus of a ceremony. Such 
and such only could be correctly called ceremonial. During 
the So'i feasts among the Southern Massim, women carrying 
polished axe blades in fine carved handles, accompany with 
a rythmic step to the beat of drums, the entry of the pigs and 
mango saplings into the village (see Plates V and VI). As 
this is part of the ceremony and the axes are an indispensable 
accessory, their use in this case can be legitimately called 
" ceremonial.'* Again, in certain magical ceremonies in the 
Trobriands, the towosi (garden magician) has to carry a mounted 
axe blade on his shoulders, and with it he delivers a ritual blow 
at a kamkokola structure (see Plate LIX; compare Chapter II, 
Division IV). 

The vaygu'a the Kula valuables in one of their 
aspects are overgrown objects of use. They are also, 
however, ceremonial objects in the narrow and correct 
sense of the word. This will become clear after perusal 
of the following pages, and to this point we shall return 
in the last chapter. 

It must be kept in mind that here we are trying to obtain a 
clear and vivid idea of what the Kula valuables are to the 
natives, and not to give a detailed and circumstantial descrip- 
tion of them, nor to define them with precision. The comparison 
with the European heirlooms or Crown jewels was given in 
order to show that this type of ownership is not entirely a 
fantastic South Sea custom, untranslatable into our ideas. 
For and this is a point I want to stress the comparison I 
have made is not based on purely external, superficial 
similarity. The psychological and sociological forces at work 
are the same, it is really the same mental attitude which 


makes us value our heirlooms, and makes the natives in New 
Guinea value their vaygu'a. 


The exchange of these two classes of vaygu'a, of the arm- 
shells and the necklaces, constitutes the main act of the Kula. 
This exchange is not done freely, right and left, as opportunity 
offers, and where the whim leads. It is subject indeed to 
strict limitations and regulations. One of these refers to the 
sociology of the exchange, and entails that Kula transactions 
can be done only between partners. A man who is in the Kula 
for not everyone within its district is entitled to carry it on 
has only a limited number of people with whom he does it. 
This partnership is entered upon in a definite manner, under 
fulfilment of certain formalities, and it constitutes a life-long 
relationship. The number of partners a man has varies with 
his rank and importance. A commoner in the Trobriands 
would have a few partners only, whereas a chief would num- 
ber hundreds of them. There is no special social mechanism 
to limit the partnership of some people and extend that of the 
others, but a man would naturally know to what number of 
partners he was entitled by his rank and position. And there 
would be always the example of his immediate ancestors to 
guide him. In other tribes, where the distinction of rank is 
not so pronounced, an old man of standing, or a headman 
of a hamlet or village would also have hundreds of Kula 
associates, whereas a man of minor importance would have 
but few. 

Two Kula partners have to kula with one another, and 
exchange other gifts incidentally ; they behave as friends, and 
have a number of mutual duties and obligations, which vary 
with the distance between their villages and with their 
reciprocal status. An average man has a few partners near by, 
as a rule his relations-in-law or his friends, and with these 
partners, he is generally on very friendly terms. The Kula 
partnership is one of the special bonds which unite two men 
into one of the standing relations of mutual exchange of gifts 
and services so characteristic of these natives. Again, the 
average man will have one or two chiefs in his or in the neigh- 
bouring districts with whom he kulas. In such a case, he 
would be bound to assist and serve them in various ways, an<i 


to offer them the pick of his vaygu'a when he gets a fresh 
supply. On the other hand he would expect them to be 
specially liberal to htm. 

The overseas partner is, on the other hand, a host, patron 
and aUy in a land of danger and insecurity. Nowadays, 
though the feeling of danger still persists, and natives never 
feel safe and comfortable in a strange district, this 'danger is 
rather felt as a magical one, and it is more the fear of foreign 
sorcery that besets them. In olden days, more tangible dangers 
were apprehended, and the partner was the main guarantee of 
safety. He also provides with food, gives presents? and 
his house, though never used to sleep in, is the place in which 
to foregather while in the village. Thus the Kula partnership 
provides every man within its ring with a few friends near at 
hand, and with some friendly allies in the far-away, dangerous, 
foreign districts. These are the only people with whom he 
can kula, but, of course, amongst all his partners, he is free to 
choose to which one he will offer which object. 

Let us now try to cast a broad glance at the cumulative 
effects of the rules of partnership. We see that all around the 
ring of Kula there is a network of relationships, and that 
naturally the whole forms one interwoven fabric. Men living 
at hundreds of miles' sailing distance from one another are 
bound together by direct or intermediate partnership, exchange 
with each other, know of each other, and on certain occasions 
meet in a large intertribal gathering (Plate XX). Objects 
given by one, in time reach some very distant indirect partner 
or other, and not only Kula objects, but various articles of 
domestic use and minor gifts. It is easy to see that in the long 
run, not only objects of material culture, but also customs, 
songs, art motives and general cultural influences travel along 
the Kula route. It is a vast, inter-tribal net of relationships, 
a big institution, consisting of thousands of men, all bound 
together by one common passion for Kula exchange, and 
secondarily, by many minor ties and interests. 

Returning again to the personal aspect of the Kula, let us 
take a concrete example, that of an average man who lives, let 
us assume, in the village of Sinaketa, an important Kula centre 
in the Southern Trobriands. He has a few partners, near and 
far, but they again fall into categories, those who give him 
arm-shells, and those who give him necklaces. For it is 


naturally an invariable rule of the Kula that arm-shells and 
necklaces are never received from the same man, since they must 
travel in different directions. If one partner gives the arm- 
shells, and I return to him a necklace, all future operations 
have to be of the same type. More than that, the nature of 
the operation between me, the man of Sinaketa, and my 
partner, is determined by our relative positions with regard to 
the points of the compass. Thus I, in Sinaketa, would receive 
from the North and East only arm-shells ; from the South and 
West, necklaces are given to me. If I have a near partner 
next door to me, if his abode is North or East of mine, he will 
always be giving me arm-shells and receiving necklaces from 
me. If, at a later time he were to shift his residence within the 
village, the old relationship would obtain, but if he became a 
member of another village community on the other side of me 
the relationship would be reversed. The partners in villages 
to the North of Sinaketa, in the district of Luba, Kulumata, or 
Kiriwina all supply me with arm-shells. These I hand over to 
my partners in the South, and receive from them necklaces. 
The South in this case means the southern districts of Boyowa, 
as well as the Amphletts and Dobu. 

Thus every man has to obey definite rules as to the geo- 
graphical direction of his transactions. At any point in the 
Kula ring, if we imagine him turned towards the centre of the 
circle, he receives the arm-shells with his left hand, and the 
necklaces with his right, and then hands them both on. In 
other words, he constantly passes the arm-shells from left to. 
right, and the necklaces from right to left. 

Applying this rule of personal conduct to the whole Kula 
ring, we can see at once what the aggregate result is. The sum 
total of exchanges will not result in an aimless shifting of the 
two classes of article, in a fortuitous come and go of the arm- 
shells and necklaces. Two continuous streams will constantly 
flow on, the one of necklaces following the hands of a clock, 
and the other, composed of the arm-shells, in the opposite 
direction. We see thus that it is quite correct to speak of the 
circular exchange of the Kula, of a ring or circuit of moving 
articles (comp. Map V). On this ring, all the villages are 
placed in a definitely fixed position with regard to one another, 
so that one is always on either the arm-shell or on the necklace 
side of the other. 


Now we pass to another rule of the Kula, of the greatest 
importance. As just explained " the armshells and shell- 
strings always travel in their own respective directions on the 
ring, and they are never, under any circumstances, traded back 
in the wrong direction. Also, they never stop. It seems 
almost incredible at first, but it is the fact, nevertheless, that 
no one ever keeps any of the Kula valuables for any4ength of 
time. Indeed, in the whole of the Trobriands there are 
perhaps only one or two specially fine armshells and shell- 
necklaces permanently owned as heirlooms, and these are set 
apart as a special class, and are once and for all out of the 
Kula. ' Ownership,' therefore, in Kula, is quite a special 
economic relation. A man who is in the Kula never keeps any 
article for longer than, say, a year or two. Even this exposes 
him to the reproach of being niggardly, and certain districts 
have the bad reputation of being ' slow ' and ' hard ' in the 
Kula. On the other hand, each man has an enormous number 
of articles passing through his hands during his life time, of 
which he enjoys a temporary possession, and which he keeps in 
trust for a time. This possession hardly ever makes him use 
the articles, and he remains under the obligation soon again 
to hand them on to one of his partners. But the temporary 
ownership allows him to draw a great deal of renown, to 
exhibit his article, to tell how he obtained it, and to plan to 
whom he is going to give it. And all this forms one of the 
favourite subjects of tribal conversation and gossip, in which 
the feats and the glory in Kula of chiefs or commoners are 
constantly discussed and re-discussed/'* Thus every article 
moves in one direction only, never comes back, never per- 
manently stops, and takes as a rule some two to ten years to 
make the round. 

This feature of the Kula is perhaps its most remarkable one, 
since it creates a new type of ownership, and places the two 
Kula articles in a class of their own. Here we can return to 
the comparison drawn between the vaygu'a (Kiriwinian 
valuables) and the European heirlooms. This comparison 
broke down on one point : in the European objects of this class, 
permanent ownership, lasting association with the hereditary 
dignity or rank or with a family, is one of its main features. 

* This and the following quotations are from the Author's preliminary 
article on the Kula in Man, July, 1920. Article number 51, p. 100. 


In this the Kula articles differ from heirlooms, but resemble 
another type of valued object, that is, trophies, gauges of 
superiority, sporting cups, objects which are kept for a time 
only by the winning party, whether a group or an individual. 
Though held only in trust, only for a period, though never used 
in any utilitarian way, yet the holders get from them a special 
type of pleasure by the mere fact of owning them, of being 
entitled to them. Here again, it is not only a superficial, 
external resemblance, but very much the same mental attitude, 
favoured by similar social arrangements. The resemblance 
goes so far that in the Kula there exists also the element of 
pride in merit, an element which forms the main ingredient 
in the pleasure felt by a man or group holding a trophy. 
Success in Kula is ascribed to special, personal power, due 
mainly to magic, and men are very proud of it. Again, the 
whole community glories in a specially fine Kula trophy, 
obtained by one of its members. 

All the rules so far enumerated looking at them from the 
individual point of view limit the social range and the 
direction of the transactions as well as the duration of owner- 
ship of the articles. Looking at them from the point of view 
of their integral effect, they shape the general outline of the 
Kula, give it the character of the double-closed circuit. Now 
a few words must be said about the nature of each individual 
transaction, in so far as its commercial technicalities are 
concerned. Here very definite rules also obtain. 

The main principle underlying the regulations of actual 
exchange is that the Kula consists in the bestowing of a 
ceremonial gift, which has to be repaid by an equivalent 
counter-gift after a lapse of time, be it a few hours or even 
minutes, though sometimes as much as a year or more may 
elapse between payments.* But it can never be exchanged 
from hand to hand, with the equivalence between the two 
objects discussed, bargained about and computed. The 
decorum of the Kula transaction is strictly kept, and highly 

* In order not to be guilty of inconsistency in using loosely the word 
" ceremonial " I shall define it briefly. I shall call an action ceremonial, if it 
is (i) public ; (2) carried on under observance of definite formalities ; (3) if 
it has sociological, religious, or magical import, and carries with it obligations. 


valued. The natives sharply distinguish it from barter, which 
they practise extensively, of which they have a clear idea, and 
for which they have a settled term in Kiriwinian : gimwali. 
Often, when criticising an incorrect, too hasty, or indecorous 
procedure of Kula, they will say : " He conducts his Kula as 
if it were gimwali." 

The second very important principle is that the equivalence 
of the counter-gift is left to the giver, and it cannot be enforced 
by any kind of coercion. A partner who has received a Kula 
gift is expected to give back fair and full value, that is, to 
give as good an arm-shell as the necklace he receives, or vice 
versa. Again, a very fine article must be replaced by one of 
equivalent value, and not by several minor ones, though 
intermediate gifts may be given to mark time before the real 
repayment takes place. 

If the article given as counter-gift is not equivalent, the 
recipient will be disappointed and angry, but he has no direct 
means of redress, no means of coercing his partner, or of 
putting an end to the whole transaction. What then are the 
forces at work which keep the partners to the terms of the 
bargain ? Here we come up against a very important feature 
of the native's mental attitude towards wealth and value. 
The great misconception of attributing to the savage a pure 
economic nature, might lead us to reason incorrectly thus : 
" The passion of acquiring, the loathing to lose or give away, 
is the fundamental and most primitive element in man's 
attitude to wealth. In primitive man, this primitive 
characteristic will appear in its simplest and purest form 
Grab and never let go will be the guiding principle of his life."* 
The fundamental error in this reasoning is that it assumes 
that " primitive man," as represented by the present-day 
savage, lives, at least in economic matters, untrammelled by 
conventions and social restrictions. Quite the reverse is the 
Wse Although, like every human being, the Kula native 
loves to possess and therefore desires to acquire and dreads 
to lose, the social code of rules, with regard to give and take 
by far overrides his natural acquisitive tendency. 

* This is not a fanciful construction of what an erroneous opinion might 
be, for I could give actual examples proving that such opinions have jbeen 
set forth, but as I am not giving here a criticism of existing theories of Primitive 
Economics, I do not want to overload this chapter with quotations. 


This social code, such as we find it among the natives of 
the Kula is, however, far from weakening the natural desir- 
ability of possession ; on the contrary, it lays down that to 
possess is to be great, and that wealth is the .indispensable 
appanage of social rank and attribute of personal virtue. 
But the important point is that with them to possess is to give 
and here the natives differ from us notably. A man who 
owns a thing is naturally expected to share it, to distribute 
it, to be its trustee and dispenser. And the higher the rank 
the greater the obligation. A chief will naturally be expected 
to give food to any stranger, visitor, even loiterer from 
another end of the village. He will be expected to share any 
of the betel-nut or tobacco he has about him. So that a man of 
rank will have to hide away any surplus of these articles which 
he wants to preserve for his further use. In the Eastern end 
of New Guinea a type of large basket, with three layers, 
manufactured in the Trobriands, was specially popular among 
people of consequence, because one could hide away one's 
small treasures in the lower compartments. Thus the main 
symptom of being powerful is to be wealthy, and of wealth is 
to be generous. Meanness, indeed, is the most despised vice, 
and the only thing about which the natives have strong moral 
views, while generosity is the essence of goodness. 

This moral injunction and ensuing habit of generosity, 
superficially observed and misinterpreted, is responsible for 
another wide-spread misconception, that of the primitive com- 
munism of savages. This, quite as much as the diametrically 
opposed figment of the acquisitive and ruthlessly tenacious 
native, is definitely erroneous, and this will be seen with 
sufficient clearness in the following chapters. 

Thus the fundamental principle of the natives' moral code 
in this matter makes a man do his fair share in Kula transaction 
and the more important he is, the more will he desire to shine 
by his generosity. Noblesse oblige is in reality the social norm 
regulating their conduct This does not mean that people are 
always satisfied, and that there are no squabbles about the 
transactions, no resentments and even feuds. It is obvious 
that, however much a man may want to give a good equivalent 
for the object received, he may not be able to do so. And 
then, as there is always a keen competition to be the most 
generous giver, a man who has received less than he gave will 


not Jceep his grievance to himself, but will brag about his own 
generosity and compare it to his partners meanness ; the other 
resents it, and the quarrel is ready to break out. But it is 
very important to realise that there is no actual haggling, no 
tendency to do a man out of his share. The giver is quite as 
keen as the receiver that the gift should be generous, though 
for different reasons. Then, of course, there is the important 
consideration that a man who is fair and generous in the Kula 
will attract a larger stream to himself than a mean one. 

The two main principles, namely, first that the Kula is a 
gift repaid after an interval of time by a counter-gift, and not 
a bartering ; and second, that the equivalent rests with the 
giver, and cannot be enforced, nor can there be any haggling 
or going back on the exchange these underlie all the 
transactions. A concrete outline of how they are carried on, 
will give a sufficient preliminary idea, 

" Let us suppose that I, a Sinaketa man, am in possession 
of a pair of big armshells. An overseas expedition from Dobu 
in the d'Entrecasteaux Archipelago, arrives at my village. 
Blowing a conch shell, I take my armshell pair and I offer it 
to my overseas partner, with some such words as ' This is a 
vaga (opening gift) in due time, thou returnest to me a big 
soulava (necklace) for it ! ' Next year, when I visit my 
partner's village, he either is in possession of an equivalent 
necklace, and this he gives to me as yotile (return gift), or he 
has not a necklace good enough to repay my last gift. In this 
case he will give me a small necklace avowedly not equivalent 
to my gift and he will give it to me as basi (intermediary gift). 
This means that the main gift has to be repaid on a future 
occasion, and the basi is given in token of good faith but it, 
in turn, must be repaid by me in the meantime by a gift of 
small arm-shells. The final gift, which will be given to me to 
clinch the whole transaction, would then be called kudu 
(clinching gift) in contrast to basi " (loc. cit., p. 99). 

Although haggling and bargaining are completely ruled out 
of the Kula, there are customary and regulated ways of 
bidding for a piece of vaygu'a known to be in the possession of 
one's partner. This is done by the offer of what we shall 
call solicitary gifts, of which there are several types. "HI, an 
inhabitant of Sinaketa, happen to be in possession of a pair of 
arm-shells more than usually good, the fame of it spreads, for 



it must be remembered that each one of the first-class arm- 
shells and necklaces has a personal name and a history of its 
own, and as they circulate around the big ring of the Kula, 
they are all well known, and their appearance in a given 
district always creates a sensation. Now, all my partners 
whether from overseas or from within the district compete 
for the favour of receiving this particular article of mine, and 
those who are specially keen try to obtain it by giving me 
pokala (offerings) and kaributu (solicit ary gifts). The former 
(pokala) consist as a rule of pigs, especially fine bananas, and 
yams or taro ; the latter (kaributu) are of greater value : the 
valuable, large axe-blades (called beku), or lime spoons of whale 
bone are given" (loc. cit, p. 100). The further complication 
in the repayment of these solicitary gifts and a few more 
technicalities and technical expressions connected herewith 
will be given later on in Chapter IV. 


I have enumerated the main rules of the Kula in a manner 
sufficient for a preliminary definition, and now a few words 
must be said about the associated activities and secondary 
aspects of the Kula. If we realise that at times the exchange 
has to take place between districts divided by dangerous seas, 
over which a great number of people have to travel by sail, 
and do so keeping to appointed dates, it becomes clear at 
once that considerable preparations are necessary to carry 
out the expedition. Many preliminary activities are intimately 
associated with the Kula. Such are, particularly, the building 
of canoes, preparation of the outfit, the provisioning of the 
expedition, the fixing of dates and social organisation of 
the enterprise. All these are subsidiary to the Kula, and as 
they are carried on in pursuit of it, and form one connected 
series, a description of the Kula must embrace an account 
of these preliminary activities. The detailed account of canoe 
building, of the ceremonial attached to it, of the incidental 
magical rites, of the launching and trial run, of the associated 
customs which aim at preparing the outfit all this will be 
described in detail in the next few chapters. 

Another important pursuit inextricably bound up with 
the Kula, is that of the secondary trade. Voyaging to far-off 
countries, endowed with natural resources unknown in their 


own homes, the Kula sailors return each time richly laden with 
these, the spoils of their enterprise. Again, in order to be able 
to offer presents to his partner, every outward bound canoe 
carries a cargo of such things as are known to be most desirable 
in the overseas district. Some of this is given away in presents 
to the partners, but a good deal is carried in order to pay for 
the objects desired at home. In certain cases, the -visiting 
natives exploit on their own account during the journey some 
of the natural resources overseas. For example, the 
Sinaketans dive for the spondylus in Sanaroa Lagoon, and the 
Dobuans fish in the Trobriands on a beach on the southern 
end of the island. The secondary trade is complicated still 
more by the fact that such big Kula centres as, for instance, 
Sinaketa, are not efficient in any of the industries of special 
value to the Dobuans. Thus, Sinaketans have to procure the 
necessary store of goods from the inland villages of Kuboma, and 
this they do on minor trading expeditions preliminary to the 
Kula. Like the canoe-building, the secondary trading will be 
described in detail later on, and has only to be mentioned here. 
Here, however, these subsidiary and associated activities 
must be put in proper relation with regard to one another and 
to the main transaction. Both the canoe-building and the 
ordinary trade have been spoken of as secondary or subsidiary 
to the Kula proper. This requires a comment. I do not, by 
thus subordinating the two things in importance to the Kula, 
mean to express a philosophical reflection or a personal 
opinion as to the relative value of these pursuits from the point 
of view of some social teleology. Indeed, it is clear that if we 
look at the acts from the outside, as comparative sociologists, 
and gauge their real utility, trade and canoe-building will 
appear to us as the really important achievements, whereas we 
shall regard the Kula only as an indirect stimulus, impelling 
the natives to sail and to trade. Here, however, I am not 
dealing in sociological, but in pure ethnographical description, 
and any sociological analysis I have given is only what has 
been absolutely indispensable to clear away misconceptions 
and to define terms.* 

* It is hardly necessary perhaps to make it quite clear that all questions 
of origins, of development or history of the institutions have been rigorously 
ruled out of this work. The mixing up of speculative or hypothetical views 
with an account of facts is, in my opinion an unpardonable sin against ethno- 
graphic method. 


By ranging the Kula as the primary and chief activity, 
and the rest as secondary ones, I mean that this precedence is 
implied in the institutions themselves. By studying the 
behaviour of the natives and all the customs in question, we 
see that the Kula is in all respects the main aim : the dates 
are fixed, the preliminaries settled, the expeditions arranged, 
the social organisation determined, not with regard to trade, 
but with regard to Kula. On an expedition, the big ceremonial 
feast, held at the start, refers to the Kula ; the final ceremony 
of reckoning and counting the spoil refers to Kula, not to the 
objects of trade obtained. Finally, the magic, which is one of 
the main factors of all the procedure, refers only to the Kula, 
and this applies even to a part of the magic carried out over 
the canoe. Some rites in the whole cycle are done for the sake 
of the canoe itself, and others for the sake of Kula. The 
construction of the canoes is always carried on directly in 
connection with a Kula expedition. All this, of course, will 
become really clear and convincing only after the detailed 
account is given. But it was necessary at this point to set the 
right perspective in the relation between the main Kula and the 

Of course not only many of the surrounding tribes who 
know nothing of the Kula do build canoes and sail far and 
daringly on trading expeditions, but even within the Kula 
ring, in the Trobriands for instance, there are several villages 
who do not kula, yet have canoes and carry on energetic 
overseas trade. But where the Kula is practised, it governs 
all the other allied activities, and canoe building and trade are 
made subsidiary to it. And this is expressed both by the 
nature of the institutions and the working of all the arrange- 
ments on the one hand, and by the behaviour and explicit 
statements of the natives on the other. 

The Kula it becomes, I hope, more and more clear is 
a big, complicated institution, insignificant though its nucleus 
might appear. To the natives, it represents one of the most 
vital interests in life, and as such it has a ceremonial character 
and is surrounded by magic. We can well imagine that 
articles of wealth might pass from hand to hand without 
ceremony or ritual, but in the Kula they never do. Even 
when at times only small parties in one or two canoes sail 
overseas and bring back vaygu'a, certain taboos are observed, 


and a customary course is taken in departing, in sailing, and in 
arriving ; even the smallest expedition in one canoe is a tribal 
event of some importance, known and spoken of over the whole 
district. But the characteristic expedition is one in which a 
considerable number of canoes take part, organised in a certain 
manner, and forming one body. Feasts, distributions of food, 
and other public ceremonies are held, there is one leader and 
master of the expedition, and various rules are adhered to, in 
addition to the ordinary Kula taboos and observances. 

The ceremonial nature of the Kula is strictly bound up 
with another of its aspects magic. " The belief in the 
efficiency of magic dominates the Kula, as it does ever so many 
other tribal activities of the natives. Magical rites must be 
performed over the sea-going canoe when it is built, in order 
to make it swift, steady and safe ; also magic is done over a 
canoe to make it lucky in the Kula. Another system of 
magical rites is done in order to avert the dangers of sailing. 
The third system of magic connected with overseas expeditions 
is the mwasila or the Kula magic proper. This system consists 
in numerous rites and spells, all of which act directly on the 
mind (nanola) of one's partner, and make him soft, unsteady 
in mind, and eager to give Kula gifts " (Joe. cit., p. 100). 

It is clear than an institution so closely associated with 
magical and ceremonial elements, as is the Kula, not only 
rests on a firm, traditional foundation, but also has its large 
store of legends. " There is a rich mythology of the Kula, 
in which stories are told about far-off times when mythical 
ancestors sailed on distant and daring expeditions. Owing to 
their magical knowledge they were able to escape dangers, 
to conquer their enemies, to surmount obstacles, and by their 
feats they established many a precedent which is now closely 
followed by tribal custom. But their importance for their 
descendants lies mainly in the fact that they handed on their 
magic, and this made the Kula possible for the following 
generations 11 (loc. cit., p. 100). 

The Kula is also associated in certain districts, to which 
the Trobriands do not belong, with the mortuary feasts, 
called so'i. The association is interesting and important, 
and in Chapter XX an account of it will be given. 

The big Kula expeditions are carried on by a great number 
of natives, a whole district together. But the geographical 


limits, from which the members of an expedition are recruited, 
are well defined. Glancing at Map V, "we see a number of 
circles, each of which represents a certain sociological unit 
which we shall call a Kula community. A Kula community 
consists of a village or a number of villages, who go out 
together on big overseas expeditions, and who act as a body 
in the Kula transactions, perform their magic in common, 
have common leaders, and have the same outer and inner 
social sphere, within which they exchange their valuables. 
The Kula consists, therefore, first of the small, internal 
transactions within a Kula community or contiguous com- 
munities, and secondly, of the big over-seas expeditions in 
which the exchange of articles takes place between two 
communities divided by sea. In the first, there is a chronic, 
permanent trickling of articles from one village to another, 
and even within the village. In the second, a whole lot of 
valuables, amounting to over a thousand articles at a time, 
are exchanged in one enormous transaction, or, more correctly, 
in ever so many transactions taking place simultaneously " 
(loc. cit., p. 101). "The Kula trade consists of a series of 
such periodical overseas expeditions, which link together the 
various island groups, and annually bring over big quantities 
of vaygu'a and of subsidiary trade from one district to another. 
The trade is used and used up, but the vaygu'a the arm- 
shells and necklets go round and round the ring' 1 (loc. cit., 
p. 105). 

In this chapter, a short, summary definition of the Kula 
has been given. I enumerated one after the other its most 
salient features, the most remarkable rules as they are laid 
down in native custom, belief and behaviour. This was 
necessary in order to give a general idea of the institution 
before describing its working in detail. But no abridged 
definition can give to the reader the full understanding of a 
human social institution. It is necessary for this, to explain 
its working concretely, to bring the reader into contact with 
the people, show how they proceed at each successive stage, 
and to describe all the actual manifestations of the general 
rules laid down in abstract. 

As has been said above, the Kula exchange is carried on 
by enterprises of two sorts ; first there are the big overseas 
expeditions, in which a more or less considerable amount of 


valuables are carried at one time. Then there is the inland 
trade in which the articles are passed from hand to hand, 
often changing several owners before they move a few miles. 

The big overseas expeditions are by far the more spectacular 
part of the Kula. They also contain much more public 
ceremonial, magical ritual, and customary usage. They 
require also, of course, more of preparation and preliminary 
activity. I shall therefore have a good deal more to say 
about the overseas Kula expeditions than about the internal 

As the Kula customs and beliefs have been mainly studied 
in Boyowa, that is, the Trobriand Islands, and from the 
Boyowan point of view, I shall describe, in the first place, the 
typical course of an overseas expedition, as it is prepared, 
organised, and carried out from the Trobriands. Beginning 
with the construction of the canoes, proceeding to the 
ceremonial launching and the visits of formal presentation of 
canoes, we shall choose then the community of Sinaketa, and 
follow the natives on one of their overseas trips, describing 
it in all details. This will serve us as a type of a Kula expe- 
dition to distant lands. It will then be indicated in what 
particulars such expeditions may differ in other branches of 
the Kula, and for this purpose I shall describe an expedition 
from Dobu, and one between Kiriwina and Kitava. An 
account of inland Kula in the Trobriands, of some associated 
forms of trading and of Kula in the remaining branches will 
complete the account. 

In the next chapter I pass, therefore, to the preliminary 
stages of the Kula, in the Trobriands, beginning with a 
description of the canoes. 



A CANOE is an item of material culture, and as such it can 
be described, photographed and even bodily transported into 
a museum. But and this is a truth too often overlooked 
the ethnographic reality of the canoe would not be brought 
much nearer to a student at home, even by placing a perfect 
specimen right before him 

The canoe is made for a certain use, and with a definite 
purpose ; it is a means to an end, and we, who study native 
life, must not reverse this relation, and make a fetish of the 
object itself. In the study of the economic purposes for 
which a canoe is made, of the various uses to which it is sub- 
mitted, we find the first approach to a deeper ethnographic 
treatment. Further sociological data, referring to its 
ownership, accounts of who sails in it, and how it is done ; 
information regarding the ceremonies and customs of its 
construction, a sort of typical life history of a native craft 
all that brings us nearer still to the understanding of what his 
canoe truly means to the native. 

Even this, however, does not touch the most vital reality of 
a native canoe. For a craft, whether of bark or wood, iron 
or steel, lives in the life of its sailors, and it is more to a sailor 
than a mere bit of shaped matter. To the native, not less 
than to the white seaman, a craft is surrounded by an atmosphere 
of romance, built up of tradition and of personal experience. 
It is an object of cult and admiration, a living thing, possessing 
its own individuality. 

We Europeans whether we know native craft by 
experience or through descriptions accustomed to our 
extraordinarily developed means of water transport, are apt 
to look down on a native canoe and see it in a false perspective 
regarding it almost as a child's plaything, an abortive, 


imperfect attempt to tackle the problem of sailing, which we 
ourselves have satisfactorily solved.* But to the native his 
cumbersome, sprawling canoe is a marvellous, almost 
miraculous achievement, and a thing of beauty (see Plates 
XXI, XXIII, XL, XLVII, LV). He has spun a tradition 
around it, and he adorns it with his best carvings, he colours 
and decorates it. It is to him a powerful contrivance for the 
mastery of Nature, which allows him to cross perilous seas to 
distant places. It is associated with journeys by sail, full of 
threatening dangers, of living hopes and desires to which he 
gives expression in song and story. In short, in the tradition 
of the natives, in their customs, in their behaviour, and in their 
direct statements, there can be found the deep love, the 
admiration, the specific attachment as to something alive and 
personal, so characteristic of the sailors' attitude towards his 

And it is hi this emotional attitude of the natives towards 
their canoes that I see the deepest ethnographic reality, which 
must guide us right through the study of other aspects the 
customs and technicalities of construction and of use ; the 
economic conditions and the associated beliefs and traditions. 
Ethnology or Anthropology, the science of Man, must not 
shun him in his innermost self, in his instinctive and emotional 

A look at the ^pictures (for instance Plates XXI, XXIV, 
XXXIX, or XLVII) will give us some idea of the general 
structure of the native canoes : the body is a long, deep 
well, connected with an outrigger float, which stretches parallel 
with the body for almost all its length (see Plates XXI and 
XXIII), and with a platform going across from one side to 
the other. The lightness of the material permits it to be much 
more deeply immersed than any sea-going European craft, and 
gives it greater buoyancy. It skims the surface, gliding up and 
down the waves, now hidden by the crests, now riding on top 

* Comparing the frail yet clumsy native canoe with a fine European 
yacht, we feel inclined to regard the former almost in the light of a joke. This 
is the pervading note in many amateur ethnographic accounts of sailing, 
where cheap fun is made by speaking of roughly hewn dug-outs in terms of 
"dreadnoughts " or " Royal Yachts," just as simple, savage chiefs are referred 
to as " Kings " in a jocular vein. Such humour is doubtless natural and 
refreshing, but when we approach these matters scientifically, on the one 
hand we must refrain from any distortion of facts, and on the other, enter 
into the finer shades of the natives' thought and feeling with regard to his 
own creations. 




itpda Bu'a, the seagoing canoe of Omawkrtna, showing general form .mianuiitation o 
rowhoards, the leaf-shaped padtlles and the form ot the out-n^T '"K- t^ Dlv * l llil ll 
also next < h.ipter.) 



The canoes mi the East shores of Boyuwa arc seldom used, and whim idle arc housed in shelter 
built very much like ordinary huts, only much larger 

[face p. 106 




of them. It is a precarious but delightful sensation to sit in 
the slender body, while the canoe darts on with the float raised, 
the platform steeply slanting, and water constantly breaking 
over ; or else, still better, to perch on the platform or on the 
float: the latter only feasible in the bigger canoes and be 
carried across on the sea on a sort of suspended raft, gliding over 
the waves in a manner almost uncanny. Occasionally a wave 
leaps up and above the platform, and the canoe unwieldy, 
square raft as it seems at first heaves lengthways and 
crossways, mounting the furrows with graceful agility. When 
the sail is hoisted, its heavy, stiff folds of golden matting 
unroll with a characteristic swishing and crackling noise, 
and the canoe begins to make way ; when the water rushes 
away below with a hiss, and the yellow sail glows against the 
intense blue of sea and sky then indeed the romance of 
sailing seems to open through a new vista. 

The natural reflection on this description is that it presents 
the feelings of the Ethnographer, not those of the native. 
Indeed there is a great difficulty in disentangling our own 
sensations from a correct reading of the innermost native 
mind. But if an investigator, speaking the native's language 
and living among them for some time, were to try to share 
and understand their feelings, he will find that he can gauge 
them correctly. Soon he will learn to distinguish when the 
native's behaviour is in harmony with his own, and when, as 
it sometimes happens, the two are at variance. 

Thus, in this case, there is no mistaking the natives' great 
admiration of a good canoe ; of their quickness in appreciating 
differences in speed, buoyancy and stability, and of their 
emotional reaction to such difference. When, on a calm day, 
suddenly a fresh breeze rises, the sail is set, and fills, and the 
canoe lifts its lamina (outrigger float) out of the water, and 
races along, flinging the spray to right and left there is no 
mistaking the keen enjoyment of the natives. All rush to 
their posts and keenly watch the movements of the boat ; 
some break out into song, and the younger men lean over and 
play with the water. They are never tired of discussing the 
good points of their canoes, and analysing the various craft. 
In the coastal villages of the Lagoon, boys and young men 
will often sail out in small canoes on mere pleasure cruises, 
when they race each other, explore less familiar nooks of the 


Lagoon, and in general undoubtedly enjoy the outing, in just 
the same manner as we would do. 

Seen from outside, after you have grasped its construction 
and appreciated through personal experience its fitness for 
its purpose, the canoe is no less attractive and full of character 
than from within. When, on a trading expedition or as a 
visiting party, a fleet of native canoes appears in the offing, 
with their triangular sails like butterfly wings scattered over 
the water (see Plates XLVIII), with the harmonious calls of 
conch shells blown in unison, the effect is unforgettable.* 
When the canoes then approach, and you see them rocking in 
the blue water in all the splendour of their fresh white, red, 
and black paint, with their finely designed prowboards, and 
clanking array of large, white cowrie shells (see Plates XLIX, 
LV) you understand well the admiring love which results 
in all this care bestowed by the native on the decoration of his 

Even when not in actual use, when lying idle beached 
on the sea front of a village, the canoe is a characteristic 
element in the scenery, not without its share in the village life. 
The very big canoes are in some cases housed in large sheds 
(see Plate XXII), which are by far the largest buildings 
erected by the Trobrianders. In other villages, where sailing 
is always being done, a canoe is simply covered with palm 
leaves (see Plates I, LIII), as protection from the sun, and 
the natives often sit on its platform, chatting, and chewing 
betel-nut, and gazing at the sea. The smaller canoes, beached 
near the sea-front in long parallel rows, are ready to be launched 
at any moment. With their curved outline and intricate 
framework of poles and sticks, they form one of the most 
characteristic settings of a native coastal village 


A few words must be said now abput the technological 
essentials of the canoe. Here again, a simple enumeration 
of the various parts of the canoe, and a description of them, 

* The crab-claw sails, used on the South Coast, from Mailu where I used 
to see them, to westwards where they are used with the double-masted lakatoi 
of Port Moresby, are still more picturesque. In fact, I can hardly imagine 
anything more strangely impressive than a fleet of crab-claw sailed canoes. 
They have been depicted in the British New Guinea stamp, as issued by Captain 
Francis Barton, the late Governor of the Colony. See also Plate XII of 
Seligman's " Melanesians." 



a pulling to pieces of a lifeless object will not satisfy us. I 
shall instead try to show how, given its purpose on the one 
hand, and the limitations in technical means and in material 
on the other, the native ship-builders have coped with the 
difficulties before them. 

A sailing craft requires a water-tight, immersible vessel 
of some considerable volume. This is supplied to our natives 
by a hollowed-out log. Such a log might carry fairly heavy 
loads, for wood is light, and the hollowed space adds to its 
buoyancy. Yet it possesses no lateral stability, as can easily 
be seen. A look at the diagrammatic section of a canoe 
Fig. I (i), shows that a weight with its centre of gravity in 

FIGURE I Diagram showing in transversal section some principles of 
canoe stability and construction. 

the middle, that is, distributed symmetrically, will not upset 
the equilibrium, but any load placed so as to produce a 
momentum of rotation (that is, a turning force) at the sides 
(as indicated by arrows at A or B) will cause the canoe to 
turn round and capsize. 

If, however, as shown in Fig. I (2), another smaller, solid 
log (C) be attached to the dug-out, a greater stability is 
achieved, though not a symmetrical one. If we press down 
the one side of the canoe (A) this will cause the canoe to turn 
round a longitudinal axis, so that its other side (B) is raised, 
Fig. I (3). The log (C) will be lifted out of the water, and its 
weight will produce a momentum (turning force) proportional 
to the displacement, and the rest of the canoe will come to 


equilibrium. This momentum is represented in the diagram 
by the arrow R. Thus a great stability relative to any stress 
exercised upon A, will be achieved. A stress on B causes the 
log to be immersed, to which its buoyancy opposes a slight 
resistance. But it can easily be seen that the stability on 
this side is much smaller than on the other. This assymetrical* 
stability plays a great part in the technique of sailing. Thus, 
as we shall see, the canoe is always so sailed that its outrigger 
float (C) remains in the wind side. The pressure of the sail 
then lifts the canoe, so that A is pressed into the water, and 
B and C are lifted, a position in which they are extremely 
stable, and can stand great force of wind. Whereas the slightest 
breeze would cause the canoe to turn turtle, if it fell on the 
other side, and thus pressed B C into the water. 

Another look at Fig. I (2) and (3) will help us to realise 
that the stability of the canoe will depend upon (i) the volume, 
and especially the depth of the dug-out ; (ii) the distance 
B C between the dug-out and the log ; (iii) the size of the 
log C. The greater all these three magnitudes are, the greater 
the stability of the canoes. A shallow canoe, without much 
freeboard, will be easily forced into the water ; moreover, if 
sailed in rough weather, waves will break over it, and fill it 
with water. 

(i^ The volume of the dug-out log naturally depends upon 
the length, and thickness of the log. Fairly stable canoes are 
made of simply scooped-out logs. There are limits, however, 
to the capacity of these, which are very soon reached. But 
by building out the side, by adding one or several planks to 
them, as shown in Figure I (4) the volume and the depth can 
be greatly increased without much increase in weight. So 
that such a canoe has a good deal of freeboard to prevent 
water from breaking in. The longitudinal boards in 
Kiriwinian canoes are closed in at each end by transversal 
prow-boards, which are also carved with more or less 
perfection (see Plates XXIV c, XLVII). 

(ii) The greater the distance B C between dug-out and 
outrigger float, the greater the stability of the canoe. Since 

* A constructive expedient to achieve a symmetrical stability is exem- 
plified by the Mailu system of canoe-building, where a platform bndges two 
parallel, hollowed-out logs. Cf. Author's article in the Transactions of the 
Royal Society of S. Australia, Vol. XXXIX, 1915, pp. 494-706. Chapter IV, 
612-599. Plates XXXV-XXXVII. 



the momentum of rotation is the product of B C (Fig. I), and 
the weight of the log C, it is clear, therefore, that the greater 
the distance, the greater will be the momentum, Too great 
a distance, however, would interfere with the wieldiness of the 
canoe. Any force acting on the log would easily tip the canoe, 
and as the natives, in order to manage the craft, have to walk 
upon the outrigger, the distance B C must not be too great. 
In the Trobriands the distance B C is about one-quarter, 
or less, of the total length of the canoe. In the big, sea-going 
canoes, it is always covered with a platform. In certain other 
districts, the distance is much bigger, and the canoes have 
another type of rigging. 

FIGURE II Diagrammatic sections of the three types of Trobnand Canoe 
(i) Kewcfu (2) Kalipoulo (3) Masawa 

(iii) The size of the log (C) of which the float is formed. 
This, in sea-going canoes, is usually of considerable dimensions. 
But, as a solid piece of wood becomes heavy if soaked by 
water, too thick a log would not be good. 

These are all the essentials of construction in their 
functional aspect, which will make clear further descriptions 
of sailing, of building, and of using. For, indeed, though I 
have said that technicalities are of secondary importance, still 
without grasping them, we cannot understand references to 
the managing and rigging of the canoes. 


The Trobrianders use their craft for three main purposes, 
and these correspond to the three types of canoe. Coastal 
transport, especially in the Lagoon, requires small, light, handy 
canoes called kewo'u (see Fig. II (i), and Plates XXIV, top 
foreground, and XXXVI, to the right) ; for fishing, bigger 
and more seaworthy canoes called kalipoulo (see Fig. II (2), 
and Plates XXIV, and XXXVI, to the left, also XXXVII) 
are used ; finally, for deep sea sailing, the biggest type is 
needed, with a considerable carrying capacity, greater 
displacement, and stronger construction. These are called 
masawa (see Fig. II (3) and Plates XXI, XXIII, etc.). The 
word waga is a general designation for ail kinds of sailing craft. 

Only a few words need to be said about the first two types, 
so as to make, by means of comparison, the third type clearer. 
The construction of the smallest canoes is sufficiently illustrated 
by the diagram (i) in Fig. II. From this it is clear that it 
is a simple dug-out log, connected with a float. It never has 
any built-up planking, and no carved boards, nor as a rule 
any platform. In its economic aspect, it is always owned by 
one individual, and serves his personal needs. No mythology 
or magic is attached to it. 

Type (2), as can be seen in Fig. II (2), differs in con- 
struction from (i), in so far that it has its well enclosed by 
built-out planking and carved prow-boards. A framework of 
six ribs helps to keep the planks firmly attached to the dug-out 
and to hold them together. It is used in fishing villages. 
These villages are organised into several fishing detachments, 
each with a headman. He is the owner of the canoe, he performs 
the fish magic, and among other privileges, obtains the main 
yield of fish. But all his crew de facto have the right to use 
the canoe and share in the yield. Here we come across the 
fact that native ownership is not a simple institution, since it 
implies definite rights of a number of men, combined with the 
paramount right and title of one. There is a good deal of 
fishing magic, taboos and customs connected with the construc- 
tion of these canoes, and also with their use, and they form the 
subject of a number of minor myths. 

By far the most elaborate technically, the most seaworthy 
and carefully built, are the sea-going canoes of the third type 
(see Fig. II (3)). These are undoubtedly the greatest 
achievement of craftsmanship of these natives. Technically, 



Above the profile of a canoe, shows the outline of the duff-out, the relative width 
of the gunwale planks <md the hull, and the general of the canoe. The bottom 

picture shows the attachment of the outrigger to the hull, the prow, the prow-hoards 
and the platform. (Sec Div IL) 

[face p. 1X2 


they differ from the previously described kinds, in the amount 
of time spent over their construction and the care given to 
details, rather than in essentials. The well is formed by a 
planking built over a hollowed log and closed up at both ends 
by carved, transversal prow-boards, kept in position by others, 
longitudinal and of oval form. The whole planking remains 
in place by means of ribs, as in the second type of canoes, the 
kalipoulo, the fishing canoes, but all the parts are finished and 
fitted much more perfectly, lashed with a better creeper, and 
more thoroughly caulked. The carving, which in the fishing 
canoes is often quite indifferent, here is perfect. Ownership 
of these canoes is even more complex, and its construction is 
permeated with tribal customs, ceremonial, and magic, the last 
based on mythology. The magic is always performed in 
direct association with Kula expeditions. 


After having thus spoken about, first, the general impression 
made by a canoe and its psychological import, and then about 
the fundamental features of its technology, we have to turn 
to the social implications of a masawa (sea-going canoe). 

The canoe is constructed by a group of people, it is owned, 
used and enjoyed communally, and this is done according to 
definite rules. There is therefore a social organisation under- 
lying the building, the owning, and the sailing of a canoe. 
Under these three headings, we shall give an outline of the 
canoe's sociology, always bearing in mind that these outlines 
have to be filled in in the subsequent account. 

(A) Social organisation of labour in constructing a Canoe. 
In studying the construction of a canoe, we see the natives 
engaged in an economic enterprise on a big scale. Technical 
difficulties face them, which require knowledge, and can only 
be overcome by a continuous, systematic effort, and at certain 
stages must be met by means of communal labour. All this 
obviously implies some social organisation. All the stages of 
work, at which various people have to co-operate, must be 
co-ordinated, there must be someone in authority who takes 
the initiative and gives decisions ; and there must be also 
someone with a technical capacity, who directs the construc- 
tion. Finally, in Kiriwina, communal labour, and the services 


of experts have to be paid for, and there must be someone who 
has the means and is prepared to do it.* This economic 
organisation rests on two fundamental facts (i) the socio- 
logical differentiation of functions, and (2) the magical regulation 
of work, 

(1) The sociological differentiation of functions. First of 
all there is the owner of the canoe, that is, the chief, or the 
headman of a village or of a smaller sub-division, who takes 
the responsibility for the undertaking. He pays for the work, 
engages the expert, gives orders, and commands communal 

Besides the owner, there is next another office of great 
sociological importance, namely, that of the expert. He is the 
man who knows how to construct the canoe, how to do the 
carvings, and, last, not least, how to perform the magic. All 
these functions of the expert may be, but not necessarily are, 
united in one person. The owner is always one individual, 
but there may be two or even three experts. 

Finally, the third sociological factor in canoe-building, 
consists of the workers. And here there is a further division. 
First there is a smaller group, consisting of the relations and 
close friends of the owner or of the expert, who help throughout 
the whole process of construction ; and, secondly, there is, 
besides them, the main body of villagers, who take part in the 
work at those stages where communal labour is necessary. 

(2) The magical regulation of work. The belief in the 
efficiency of magic is supreme among the natives of Boyowa, 
and they associate it with all their vital concerns. In fact, 
we shall find magic interwoven into all the many industrial 
and communal activities to be described later on, as well as 
associated with every pursuit where either danger or chance 
conspicuously enter. We shall have to describe, besides the 
magic of canoe-making, that of propitious sailing, of ship- 
wreck and salvage, of Kula and of trade, of fishing, of obtaining 
spondylus and Conus shell, and of protection against attack 
in foreign parts. It is imperative that we should thoroughly 
grasp what magic means to the natives and the rdle it plays 
in all their vital pursuits, and a special chapter will be devoted 

* The whole tribal life is based on a continuous material give and take ; 
cf. the above mentioned article in the Economic Journal, March, 1921, and 
the disgression on this subject in Chapter VI, Division IV-VII. 


to magical ideas and magical practices in Kiriwina. Here, 
however, it is necessary to sketch the main outlines, at least 
as far as canoe magic is concerned. 

First of all, it must be realised that the natives firmly 
believe in the value of magic, and that this conviction, when 
put to the test of their actions, is quite unwavering, even 
nowadays when so much of native belief and custom has 
been undermined. We may speak of the sociological weight 
of tradition, that is of the degree to which the behaviour of 
a community is affected by the traditional commands of 
tribal law and customs. In the Trobriands, the general 
injunction for always building canoes under the guidance of 
magic is obeyed without the slightest deviation, for the 
tradition here weighs very heavily. Up to the present, not one 
single masawa canoe has been constructed without magic, indeed 
without the full observance of all the rites and ceremonial. 
The forces that keep the natives to their traditional course of 
behaviour are, in the first place, the specific social inertia 
which obtains in all human societies and is the basis of all 
conservative tendencies, and then the strong conviction 
that if the traditional course were not taken, evil results 
would ensue. In the case of canoes, the Trobrianders would 
be so firmly persuaded that a canoe built without magic would 
be unseaworthy, slow in sailing, and unlucky in the Kula, 
that no one would dream of omitting the magic rites. 

In the myths related elsewhere (Chap. XII) we shall see 
plainly the power ascribed to magic in imparting speed and 
other qualities to a canoe. According to native mythology, 
which is literally accepted, and strongly believed, canoes could 
be even made to fly, had not the necessary magic fallen into 

It is also important to understand rightly the natives' ideas 
about the relation between magical efficiency and the results 
of craftsmanship. Both are considered indispensable, but 
both are understood to act independently. That is, the 
natives will understand that magic, however efficient, will 
not make up for bad workmanship. Each of these two has 
its own province : the builder by his skill and knowledge makes 
the canoe stable and swift, and magic gives it an additional 
stability and swiftness. If a canoe is obviously badly built, 
the natives will know why it sails slowly and is unwieldy. 


But if one of two canoes, both apparently equally well con- 
structed surpasses the other in some respect, this will be 
attributed to magic. 

Finally, speaking from a sociological point of view, what 
is the economic function of magic in the process of canoe 
making ? Is it simply an extraneous action, having nothing 
to do with the real work or its organisation ? Is magic, from 
the economic point of view, a mere waste of time ? By no 
means. In reading the account which follows, it will be seen 
clearly that magic puts order and sequence into the various 
activities, and that it and its associated ceremonial are 
instrumental in securing the co-operation of the community, 
and the organisation of communal labour. As has been said 
before, it inspires the builders with great confidence in the 
efficiency of their work, a mental state essential in any enter- 
prise of complicated and difficult character. The belief that 
the magician is a man endowed with special powers, controling 
the canoe, makes him a natural leader whose command is 
obeyed, who can fix dates, apportion work, and keep the 
worker up to the mark. 

Magic, far from being a useless appendage, or even a burden 
on the work, supplies the psychological influence, which keeps 
people confident about the success of their labour, and provides 
them with a sort of natural leader.* Thus the organisation of 
labour in canoe-building rests on the one hand on the division 
of functions, those of the owner, the expert and the helpers, 
and on the other on the co-operation between labour and 

(B) Sociology of Canoe Ownership. 

Ownership, giving this word its broadest sense, is the 
relation, often very complex, between an object and the social 
community in which it is found. In ethnology it is extremely 
important not to use this word in any narrower sense than that 
just defined, because the types of ownership found in various 
parts of the world differ widely. It is especially a grave 

* This view has been more fully elaborated in the article on " Primitive 
Economics " in the Economic Journal, March, 1921 ; compare also the remarks 
on systematic magic in Chapter XVII, Division VII. 


error to use the word ownership with the very definite 
connotation given to it in our own society. For it is obvious 
that this connotation presupposes the existence of very 
highly developed economic and legal conditions, such as they 
are amongst ourselves, and therefore the term " own " as we 
use it is meaningless, when applied to a native society. Or 
indeed, what is worse, such an application smuggles a number 
of preconceived ideas into our description, and before we have 
begun to give an account of the native conditions, we have 
distorted the reader's outlook. 

Ownership has naturally in every type of native society, 
a different specific meaning, as in each type, custom and 
tradition attach a different set of functions, rites and 
privileges to the word. Moreover, the social range of those 
who enjoy these privileges varies. Between pure individual 
ownership and collectivism, there is a whole scale of intermediate 
blendings and combinations. 

In the Trobriands, there is a word which may be said 
approximately to denote ownership, the prefix toll followed 
by the name of the object owned. Thus the compound word 
(pronounced without hiatus) toli-waga, means " owner " or 
" master " of a canoe (waga) ; toli-bagula, the master of the 
garden (bagula garden) ; toli-bunukwa, owner of the pig; 
toli-megwa (owner, expert in magic, etc.) This word has to 
be used as a clue to the understanding of native ideas, but 
here again such a clue must be used with caution. For, in the 
first place, like all abstract native words, it covers a wide 
range, and has different meanings in different contexts. And 
even with regard to one object, a number of people may lay 
claim to ownership, claim to be toli with regard to it. In 
the second place, people having the full de facto right of using 
an object, might not be allowed to call themselves toli of 
this object. This will be made clear in the concrete example 
of the canoe. 

The word toli in this example is restricted to one man 
only, who calls himself toli-waga. Sometimes his nearest 
maternal relatives, such as his brothers and maternal nephews, 
might call themselves collectively toli-waga, but this would be 
an abuse of the term. Now, even the mere privilege of using 
exclusively this title is very highly valued by the natives. 
With this feature of the Trobriand social psychology, that is 


with their characteristic ambition, vanity and desire to be 
renowned and well spoken of, the reader of the following pages 
will become very familiar. The natives, to whom the Kula 
and the sailing expeditions are so important, will associate the 
name of the canoe with that of its toli ; they will identify his 
magical powers and its good luck in sailing and in the Kula ; 
they will often speak of So-and-so's sailing here and 'there, of 
his being very fast in sailing, etc., using in this the man's 
name for that of the canoe. 

Turning now to the detailed determination of this relation- 
ship, the most important point about it is that it always rests 
in the person of the chief or headman. As we have seen in 
our short account of the Trobrianders' sociology, the village 
community is always subject to the authority of one chief or 
headman. Each one of these, whether his authority extends 
over a small sectional village, or over a whole district, has the 
means of accumulating a certain amount of garden produce, 
considerable in the case of a chief, relatively small in that of a 
headman, but always sufficient to defray the extra expenses 
incidental to all communal enterprise. He also owns native 
wealth condensed into the form of the objects of value called 
vaygu'a. Again, a headman will have little, a big chief a 
large amount. But everyone who is not a mere nobody, must 
possess at least a few stone blades, a few kaloma belts, and some 
kuwa (small necklets). Thus in all types of tribal enterprises, 
the chief or headman is able to bear the burden of expense, 
and he also derives the main benefit from the affair. In the 
case of the canoe, the chief, as we saw, acts as main 
organiser in the construction, and he also enjoys the title 
of toli. 

This strong economic position runs side by side with his 
direct power, due to high rank, or traditional authority. In 
the case of a small headman, it is due to the fact that he 
is at the head of a big kinship group (the totemic sub- 
clan). Both combined, allow him to command labour and 
to reward for it. 

This title of toliwaga, besides the general social distinction 
which it confers, implies further a definite series of social 
functions with regard to its individual bearer. 

(i) There are first the formal and ceremonial privileges. 
Thus, the toliwaga has the privilege of acting as spokesman of 


his community in all matters of sailing or construction. He 
assembles the council, informal or formal as the case may be, 
and opens the question of when the sailing will take place. 
This right of initiative is a purely a nominal one, because both 
in construction and sailing, the date of enterprise is determined 
by outward causes, such as reciprocity to overseas tribes, 
seasons, customs, etc. Nevertheless, the formal privilege is 
strictly confined to the toliwaga, and highly valued. The 
position of master and leader of ceremonies, of general spokes- 
man, lasts right through the successive stages of the building 
of the canoe, and its subsequent use, and we shall meet with 
it in all the ceremonial phases of the Kula. 

(2) The economic uses and advantages derived from a canoe 
are not limited to the toliwaga. He, however, gets the lion's 
share. He has, of course, in all circumstances, the privilege 
of absolute priority in being included in the party. He also 
receives always by far the greatest proportion of Kula valuables, 
and other articles on every occasion. This, however, is in 
virtue of his general position as chief or headman, and should 
perhaps not be included under this heading. But a very 
definite and strictly individual advantage is that of being able 
to dispose of the canoe for hire, and of receiving the payment 
for it. The canoe can be, and often is, hired out from a 
headman, who at a given season has no intention of sailing, by 
another one, as a rule from a different district, who embarks 
on an expedition. The reason of this is, that the chief or 
headman who borrows, may at that time not be able to have 
his own canoe repaired, or construct another new one. The 
payment for hire is called toguna, and it consists of a vaygu'a. 
Besides this, the best vaygu'a obtained on the expedition 
would be kula'd to the man from whom the canoe was hired.* 

(3) The toliwaga has definite social privileges, and exercises 
definite functions, in the running of a canoe. Thus, he selects 
his companions, who will sail in his canoe, and has the nominal 
right to choose or reject those who may go on the expedition 
with him. Here again the privilege is much shorn of its 

* The way of hiring a masawa (sea-going) canoe is different from the usual 
transaction, when hiring a fishing canoe. In the latter case, the payment 
consists of giving part of the yield of fish, and this is called uwaga. The same 
term applies to all payments for objects hired. Thus, if fishing nets or hunting 
implements, or a small canoe for trading along the coast are hired out, part 
of the proceeds are given as uwaga. 


value by many restrictions imposed on the chief by the nature 
of things. Thus, on the one hand, his veyola (maternal 
kinsmen) have, according to all native ideas of right and law, 
a strong claim on the canoe. Again, a man of rank in a 
community could be excluded from an expedition only with 
difficulty, if he wished to go and there were no special grievance 
against him. But if there were such a cause, if the man had 
offended the chief, and were on bad terms with him, he himself 
would not even try to embark. There are actual examples 
of this on record. Another class of people having a de facto 
right to sail are the sailing experts. In the coastal villages 
like Sinaketa there are many of these ; in inland ones, like 
Omarakana, there are few. So in one of these inland places, 
there are men who always go in a canoe, whenever it is used ; 
who have even a good deal to say in all matters connected 
with sailing, yet who would never dare to use the title of toli- 
waga, and would even definitely disclaim it if it were given to 
them. To sum up : the chief's privilege of choice is limited 
by two conditions, the rank and the seamanship of those he 
may select. As we have seen, he fulfils definite functions in 
the construction of the canoe. We shall see later on that he 
has also definite functions in sailing. 

(4) A special feature, implied in the title of toliwaga, is 
the performance of magical duties. It will be made clear that 
magic during the process of construction is done by the expert, 
but magic done in connection with sailing and Kula is done by 
the toliwaga. The latter must, by definition, know canoe 
magic. The role of magic in this, and the taboos, cere- 
monial activities, and special customs associated with it, 
will come out clearly in the consecutive account of a Kula 


(3) The Social Division of Functions in the Manning and Sailing 
of the Canoe. 

Very little is to be said under this heading here, since to 
understand this we must know more about the technicalities 
of sailing. We shall deal with this subject later on (Chap. IX, 
Div. II), and there the social organisation within the canoe 
such as it is will be indicated. Here it may be said that a 


number of men have definite tasks assigned to them, and they 
keep to these. As a rule a man will specialise, let us say, as 
steersman, and will always have the rudder given to his care. 
Captainship, carrying with it definite duties, powers and 
responsibilities, as a position distinct from that of the toliwaga. 
does not exist. The owner of the canoe will always take the 
lead and give orders, provided that he is a good sailor. Other- 
wise the best sailor from the crew will say what is to be done 
when difficulties or dangers arise. As a rule, however, 
everyone knows his task, and everyone performs it in the normal 
course of events. 

A short outline of the concrete details referring to the 
distribution of canoes in the Trobriands must be given here. 
A glance at the map of Boyowa shows that various districts 
have not the same opportunities for sailing, and not all of them 
direct access to the sea. Moreover, the fishing villages on the 
Lagoon, where fishing and sailing have constantly to be done, 
will naturally have more opportunities for cultivating the arts 
of sailing and ship-building. And indeed we find that the 
villages of the two inland districts, Tilataula and Kuboma, 
know nothing about shipbuilding and sailing, and possess no 
canoes ; the villages in Kiriwina and Luba, on the east coast, 
with indirect access to the sea, have only one canoe each, and 
few building experts ; while some villagers on the Lagoon are 
good sailors and excellent builders. The best centres for 
canoe-building are found in the islands of Vakuta and Kayleula 
and to a lesser degree this craft flourishes in the village of 
Sinaketa. The island of Kitava is the traditional building 
centre, and at present the finest canoes as well as the best 
canoe carvings come from there. In this description of canoes, 
this island, which really belongs to the Eastern rather than to 
the Western branch of the N. Massim, must be included in the 
account, since all Boyowan canoe mythology and canoe industry 
is associated with Kitava. 

There are at present some sixty-four Masawa canoes in 
the Trobriands and Kitava. Out of these, some four belong 
to the Northern district, where Kula is not practised ; all the 
rest are built and used for the Kula. In the foregoing chapters 
I have spoken about " Kula communities/ 1 that is, such groups 
of villages as carry on the Kula as a whole, sail together 
on overseas expeditions, and do their internal Kula with o le 


another. We shall group the canoes according to the Kula 
community to which they belong. 

Kiriwina . . . . . . 8 canoes. 

Luba . . .. .. 3 

Sinaketa . . . . . . 8 

Vakuta . . . . . . 22 k 

Kayleula . . . . about 20 

Kitava . . . . about 12 

Total for all Kula communities 60 canoes. 

To this number, the canoes of the Northern district must 
be added, but they are never used in the Kula. In olden days,, 
this figure was, on a rough estimate, more than double of what 
it is now, because, first of all, there are some villages which 
had canoes in the old days and now have none, and then the 
number of villages which became extinct a few generations 
ago is considerable. About half a century ago, there were in 
Vakuta alone about sixty canoes, in Sinaketa at least twenty, 
in Kitava thirty, in Kiriwina twenty, and in Luba ten. When 
all the canoes from Sinaketa and Vakuta sailed south, and 
some twenty to thirty more joined them from the Amphletts 
and Tewara, quite a stately fleet would approach Dobu. 

Turning now to the list of ownership in Kiriwina, the most 
important canoe is, of course, that owned by the chief of 
Omarakana. This canoe always leads the fleet ; that is to 
say, on big ceremonial Kula sailings, called uvalaktt, it has the 
privileged position. It lives in a big shed on the beach of 
Kaulukuba (see Plates XXII, XXX), distant about one mile 
from the village, the beach on which also each new canoe is 
made. The present canoe (see Plates XXI and XLI) is called 
Nigada Bu'a " begging for an areca-nut." Every canoe 
has a personal name of its own, sometimes just an appropriate 
expression, like the one quoted, sometimes derived from some 
special incident. When a new canoe is built, it often inherits 
the name of its predecessor, but sometimes it gets a new name. 
The present Omarakana canoe was constructed by a master- 
builder from Kitava, who also carved the ornamental prow- 
board. There is no one now in Omarakana who can build or 
carve properly. The magic over the latter stages ought to 
have been recited by the present chief, To'uluwa, but as he 


has very little capacity for remembering spells, the magic was 
performed by one of his kinsmen. 

All the other canoes of Kiriwina are also housed in hangars, 
each on a beach of clean, white sand on the Eastern coast. 
The chief or headman of "each village is the toliwaga. In 
Kasana'i, the sub-village of Omarakana, the canoe, called in 
feigned modesty tokwabu (something like ' 'landlubber"), was 
built by Ibena, a chief of equal rank, but smaller power than 
To'uluwa, and he is also the toliwaga. Some other characteristic 
names of the canoes are: Kuyamataym 1 "Take care of 
yourself," that is, " because I shall get ahead of you " ; the 
canoe of Liluta, called Siya'i, which is the name of a Govern- 
ment station, where some people from Liluta were once 
imprisoned ; Topusa a flying fish ; Yagwa'u a scarecrow ; 
Akamta'u " I shall eat men," because the canoe was a gift 
from the cannibals of Dobu. 

In the district of Luba there are at present only three 
canoes ; one belongs to the chief of highest rank in the village 
of Olivilevi. This is the biggest canoe in all the Trobriands. 
Two are in the village of Wawela, and belong to two headmen, 
each ruling over a section of the village ; one of them is seen 
being relashed on Plate XXVII. 

The big settlement of Sinaketa, consisting of sectional 
villages, has also canoes. There are about four expert builders 
and carvers, and almost every man there knows a good deal 
about construction. In Vakuta the experts are even more 
numerous, and this is also the case in Kayleula and Kitava, 



THE building of the sea-going canoe (masawa) is inextricably 
bound up with the general proceedings of the Kula. As we 
have said before, in all villages where Kula is practised the 
masawa canoes are built and repaired only in direct 
connection with it. That is, as soon as a Kula expedition is 
decided upon, and its date fixad, all the canoes of the village 
must be overhauled, and those too old for repair must be 
replaced by new ones. As the overhauling differs only slightly 
from building in the later, ceremonial stages of the procedure, 
the account in this chapter .covers both. 

To the native, the construction of the canoe is the first 
link in the chain of the Kula performances. From the moment 
that the tree is felled till the return of the oversea party, there 
is one continuous flow of events, following in regular succession. 
Not only that : as we shall see, the technicalities of construction 
are interrupted and punctuated by magical rites. Some of 
these refer to the canoe, others belong to the Kula. Thus, 
canoe-building and the first stage of Kula dovetail into one 
another. Again, the launching of the canoe, and especially the 
kabigidoya (the formal presentation visit) are in one respect 
the final acts of canoe-building, and in another they belong 
to the Kula. In giving the account of canoe -building, therefore, 
we start on the long sequence of events which form a Kula 
expedition. No account of the Kula could be considered 
complete in which canoe-building had been omitted. 

In this chapter, the incidents will be related one after the 
other as they happen in the normal routine of tribal life, 
obeying the commands of custom, and the indications of 
belief, the latter acting more rigidly and strongly even than 
the former. It will be necessary, in following this consecutive 
account, to keep in mind the definite, sociological mechanism 




underlying the activities, and the system of ideas at work in 
regulating labour and magic. The social organisation has 
been described in the previous chapter. We shall remember 
that the owner, the expert or experts, a small group of helpers, 
and the whole community are the social factors, each of which 
fulfils a different function in the organisation and performance 
of work. As to the magical ideas which govern the various 
rites, they will be analysed later on in the course of this and 
some of the following chapters, and also in Chapter XVII. 
Here it must suffice to say that they belong to several different 
systems of ideas. The one based on the myth of the flying 
canoe refers directly to the canoe; it aims at imparting a 
general excellence, and more especially the quality of speed 
to the canoe. The rites of the other type are really exorcisms 
directed against evil bewitchment (bulubwalata) of which the 
natives are much afraid. The third system of magic (performed 
during canoe construction) is the Kula magic, based on its 
own mythological cycle, and although performed on the canoe, 
yet aiming at the imparting of success to the toliwaga in his 
Kula transactions. Finally, at the beginnings of the pro- 
ceedings there is some rnagic addressed to the tokway, the 
malignant wood sprite. 

The construction of the canoe is done in two main stages, 
differing from one another in the character of the work, in the 
accompanying magic, and in the general sociological setting. 
In the first stage, the component parts of the canoe are prepared. 
A big tree is cut, trimmed into a log, then hollowed out and 
made into the basic dug-out ; the planks, boards, poles, and 
sticks are prepared. This is achieved by slow, leisurely work, 
and it is done by the canoe-builder with the assistance of a few 
helpers, usually his relatives or friends or else those of the 
toliwaga. This stage generally takes a long time, some two 
to six months, and is done in fits and starts, as other occupations 
allow, or the mood comes. The spells and rites which accom- 
pany it belong to the tokway magic, and to that of the flying 
canoe cycle. To this first stage also belongs the carving of the 
decorative prow-boards. This is done sometimes by the builder, 
sometimes by another expert, if the builder cannot carve. 

The second stage is done by means of intense communal 
labour. As a rule this stage is spread over a short time, only 
perhaps a week or two including the pauses between work. 


The actual labour, in which the whole community is ener- 
getically engaged, takes up only some three to five days. The 
work consists of the piecing together of the planks and prow- 
boards, and, in case these do not fit well, of trimming them 
appropriately, and then of the lashing them together. Next 
comes the piecing and lashing of the outrigger, caulking and 
painting of the canoe. Sail-making is also done at this time, and 
belongs to this stage. As a rule, the main body of the canoe 
is constructed at one sitting, lasting about a day ; that is, the 
prow-boards are put in, the ribs and planks fitted together, 
trimmed and lashed. Another day is devoted to the attaching 
of the float and binding of the outrigger frame and the platform. 
Caulking and painting are done at another sitting, or perhaps 
at two more, while the sail is made on yet another day. These 
times are only approximate, since the size of the canoe, as well 
as the number of people participating in communal labour, 
greatly varies. The second stage of canoe-building is accom- 
panied by Kula magic, and by a series of exorcisms on the 
canoe, and the magic is performed by the owner of the canoe, 
and not by the builder or expert. This latter, however, 
directs the technicalities of the proceedings, in which he is 
assisted and advised by builders from other villages ; by 
sailing experts, and by the toliwaga and other notables. The 
lashing of the canoe with a specially strong creeper, called 
wayugo, is accompanied by perhaps the most important of the 
rites and spells belonging to the flying canoe magic. 


After the decision to build a waga has been taken, a tree 
suitable for the main log has to be chosen. This, in the Tro- 
briands, is not a very easy task. As the whole plain is taken 
up by garden land, only the small patches of fertile soil in the 
coral ridge which runs all round the island, remain covered 
with jungle. There the tree must be found, there felled, and 
thence transported to the village. 

Once the tree is chosen, the toliwaga, the builder and a few 
helpers repair to the spot, and a preliminary rite must be 
performed, before they begin to cut it down. A small incision 
is made into the trunk, so that a particle of food, or a bit of 
areca-nut can be put into it. Giving this as an offering to the 
tokway (wood sprite), the magician utters an incantation : 



" Come down, wood sprites, O Tokway, dwellers in 
branches, come down ! Come down, dwellers in branch 
forks, in branch shoots ! Come down, come, eat ! Go to 
your coral outcrop over there ; crowd there, swarm there, 
be noisy there, scream there ! 

" Step down from our tree, old men ! This is a canoe 
ill spoken of ; this is a canoe out of which you have been 
shamed ; this is a canoe out of which you have been 
expelled ! At sunrise and morning, you help us in felling 
the canoe ; this our tree, old men, let it go and fall down ! " 

This spell, given in free translation, whicK, however, 
follows the original very closely, word for word, is far clearer 
than the average sample of Trobriand magic. In the first 
part, the tokway is invoked under various names, and invited 
to leave his abode, and to move to some other place, and there 
to be at his ease In the second part, the canoe is mentioned 
with several epithets, all of which denote an act of discourtesy 
or ill-omen. This is obviously done to compel the tokway to 
leave the tree. In Boyowa, the yoba, the chasing away, is 
under circumstances a great insult, and at times it commands 
immediate compliance. This is always the case when the 
chaser belongs to the local sub-clan of a village, and the 
person expelled does not. But the yoba is always an act of 
considerable consequence, never used lightly, and in this 
spell, it carries these sociological associations with it. In the 
usual anticipatory way, characteristic of native speech, the 
tree is called in the spell " canoe " (waga). 

The object of this spell is written very plainly in every 
word of it, and the natives also confirm it by saying that it 
is absolutely necessary to get rid of the tokway. What would 
happen, however, if the tokway were not expelled, is not so 
unequivocally laid down by tradition, and it cannot be read 
out of the spell or the rite. Some informants say that the 
canoe would be heavy ; others that the wood would be full 
of knots, and that there would be holes in the canoe, or that 
it would quickly rot. 

But though the rationale of the expulsion is not so well 
defined, the belief in the tokway's evil influence, and in the 
dangers associated with his presence is positive. And this is 
in keeping with the general nature of the tokway, as we find 


him delineated by native belief. The tokway is on the whole a 
harmful being, though the harm he does is seldom more than 
an unpleasant trick, perhaps a sudden fright, an attack of 
shooting pains, or a theft. The tokway live in trees or in coral 
rocks and boulders, usually in the raybwag, the primeval 
jungle, growing on the coastal ridge, full of outcrops and 
rocks. Some people have seen a tokway, although heas invisible 
at will. His skin is brown, like that of any Boyowan, but he 
has long, sleek hair, and a long beard. He comes often at 
night, and frightens people. But, though seldom seen, the 
tokway's wailing is often heard from the branches of a big tree, 
and some trees evidently harbour more tokways than others, 
since you can hear them very easily there. Sometimes, over 
such trees, where people often hear the tokway and get a fright, 
the above quoted incantation and rite are performed. 

In their contact with men, the tokway show their un- 
pleasant side ; often they come at night and steal food. Many 
cases can be quoted when a man, as it seemed, was surprised 
in the act of stealing yams out of a storehouse, but lo ! when 
approached he disappeared it was a tokway. Then, sickness 
in some of its lighter forms is caused by the tokway. Shooting 
pains, pricking and stabbing in one's inside, are often due to 
him, for he is in possession of magic by which he can insert 
small, sharp-edged and sharp-pointed objects into the body. 
Fortunately some men know magic by which to extract such 
objects. These men, of course, according to the general rule 
of sorcery, can also inflict the same ailments. In olden days, 
the tokway gave both the harmful and beneficent magic to some 
men, and ever since, this form of sorcery and of concomitant 
healing have been handed on from one generation to another. 

Let us return to our canoe, however. After the rite has 
been performed, the tree is felled. In olden days, when stone 
implements were used, this must have been a laborious process, 
in which a number of men were engaged in wielding the axe, 
and others in re-sharpening the blunted or broken blades. The 
old technique was more like nibbling away the wood in small 
chips, and it must have taken a long time to cut out a sufficiently 
deep incision to fell the tree. After the tree is on the ground, 
the preliminary trimming is done on the spot. The branches 
are lopped off, and the log of appropriate length is made out of 
the tree. This log is cut into the rough shape of a canoe, so 


as to make it as light as possible, for now it has to be pulled 
to the village or to the beach. 

The transporting of the log is not an easy task, as it has to 
be taken out of the uneven, rocky raybwag, and then pulled 
along very bad roads. Pieces of wood are put on the ground 
every few metres, to serve as slips on which the log can more 
easily glide than on the rocks and uneven soil. In spite of 
that, and in spite of the fact that many men are summoned 
to assist, the work of pulling the log is very heavy. The men 
receive food in payment for it. Pig flesh is cooked and dis- 
tributed with baked yams ; at intervals during the work they 
refresh themselves with green coco-nut drinks and with 
sucking sugar cane. Gifts of such food, given during work in 
payment of communal labour, are called puwaya. To describe 
how heavy the work sometimes is, the native will say, in a 
characteristically figurative manner : 

" The pig, the coco drinks, the yams are finished, and 
yet we pull very heavy ! " 

In such cases the natives resort to a magical rite which makes 
the canoe lighter. A piece of dry banana leaf is put on top of 
the log. The owner or builder beats the log with a bunch of 
dry lalang grass and utters the following spell : 


" Come down, come down, defilement by contact with 
excrement ! Come down, defilement by contact with 
refuse ! Come down, heaviness ! Come down, lot ! 
Come down fungus ! . . ." and so on, invoking a number 
of deteriorations to leave the log, and then a number of 
defilements and broken taboos. In other words, the 
heaviness and slowness, due to all these magical causes, 
are thrown out of the log. 

This bunch of grass is then ritually thrown away. It is 
called momwa'u, or the " heavy bunch." Another handful of 
the long lalang grass, seared and dry, is taken, and this is the 
gagabile, the " light bunch," and with this the canoe is again 
beaten. The meaning of the rite is quite plain : the first 
bunch takes into it the heaviness of the log, and the second 
imparts lightness to it. Both spells also express this meaning 
in plain terms. The second spell, recited with the gagabile 
bunch, runs thus : 



" He fails to outrun me " (repeated many times). " The 
canoe trembles with speed " (many times). A few un- 
translatable words are uttered ; then a long chain of 
ancestral names is invoked. " I lash you, tree ; the 
tree flies ; the tree becomes like a breath of wind ; the 
tree becomes like a butterfly ; the tree becomes like a 
cotton seed fluff. One sun " (i.e., time) " for my com- 
panions, midday sun, setting sun ; another sun for me " 

(here the reciter's name is uttered) " the rising sun, the 
rays of the (rising) sun, (the time of) opening the huts, 
(the time of the) rising of the morning star ! " The last 
part means : " My companions arrive at sunset, while I 
arrive with the rising sun " (indicating how far my canoe 
exceeds them in speed.)* 

These formulae are used both to make the log lighter for 
the present purpose of pulling it into the village, and in order 
to give it greater speed in general, when it is made up into a 

After the log has been finally brought into the village, and 
left on the baku, the main central place, the creeper by means 
of which it has been pulled and which is called in this connection 
duku, is not cut away at once. This is done ceremonially on 
the morning of the following day, sometimes after even two or 
three days have passed. The men of the community assemble, 
and the one who will scoop out the canoe, the builder (tota'ila 
waga, " the cutter of the canoe ") performs a magical rite. 
He takes his adze (ligogu) and wraps some very light and thin 
herbs round the blade with a piece of dried banana leaf, itself 
associated with the idea of lightness. This he wraps only half 
round, so that a broad opening is left, and the breath and voice 
have free access to the herbs and blade of the adze. Into this 
opening, the magician chants the following long spell : 


" I shall wave them back, (i.e., prevent all other canoes 
from overtaking me) ! " repeated many times. " On the 
top of Si'a Hill ; women of Tokuna ; my mother a sorceress, 
myself a sorcerer. It dashes forward, it flies ahead. 
The canoe body is light ; the pandanus streamers are 

* The words within brackets in this and m some of the following spells 
arc free additions, necessary to make the meaning clear in the English version. 
They are implied by the context in the native original, though not explicitly 


aflutter ; the prow skims the waves ; the ornamental 
boards leap, like dolphins ; the tabuyo (small prow-board) 
breaks the waves ; the lagim' (transversal prow-board) 
breaks the waves. Thou sleepest in the mountain, thou 
sleepest in Kuyawa Island. We shall kindle a small 
fire of lalang grass, we shall burn aromatic herbs (i.e., at 
our destination in the mountains) ! Whether new or old 
thou goest ahead/' 

This is the exordium of the formula. Then comes a 
very long middle part, in a form very characteristic of 
Trobriand magic. This form resembles a litany, in so far 
as a key word or expression is repeated many times with 
a series of complementary words and expressions. Then 
the first key word is replaced by another, which in its 
turn, is repeated with the same series of expressions ; 
then comes another key word, and so on. We have thus 
two series of words ; each term of the first is repeated over 
and over again, with all terms of the second, and in this 
manner, with a limited number of words, a spell is very 
much lengthened out, since its length is the product of 
the length of both series. In shorter spells, there may be 
only one key word, and in fact, this is the more usual 
type. In this spell, the first series consists of nouns 
denoting different parts of the canoe ; the second are 
verbs, such as : to cut, to fly, to speed, to cleave a fleet 
of other canoes, to disappear, to skim over the waves. 
Thus the litany runs in such a fashion : " The tip of my 
canoe starts, the tip of my canoe flies, the tip of my canoe 
speeds, etc., etc." After the long litany has been chanted, 
the magician repeats the exordium, and finishes it off 
with the conventional onomatopoetic word saydididi 
which is meant to imitate the flying of the witches. 

After the recital of this long spell over the herbs and blade 
of his adze, the magician wraps up the dry banana leaf, thus 
imprisoning the magical virtue of the spell round the blade, 
and with this, he strikes and cuts through the duku (the creeper 
used for the pulling of the canoes.) 

With this, the magic is not over yet, for on the same 
evening, when the canoe is put on transversal logs (nigakulu), 
another rite has to be carried o.ut. Some herbs are placed on 
the transversals between them and the body of the big canoe 
log. Over these herbs, again, another spell has to be uttered. 
In order not to overload this account with magical texts, I 
shall not adduce this spell in detail. Its wording also plainly 


indicates that it is speed magic, and it is a short formula running 
on directly, without cross-repetitions. 

After that, for some days, the outside of the canoe body 
is worked. Its two ends must be cut into tapering shape, and 
the bottom evened and smoothed. After that is done, the canoe 
has to be turned over, this time into its natural position, bottom 
down, and what is to be the opening, upwards. "Before the 
scooping out begins, another formula has to be recited over the 
kavilali, a special ligogu (adze), used for scooping out, which is 
inserted into a handle with a moveable part, which then allows 
the cutting to be done at varying angles to the plane of striking. 

The rite stands in close connection to the myth of the 
flying canoe, localised in Kudayuri, a place in the Island of 
Kitava, and many allusions are made to this myth.* After 
a short exordium, containing untranslatable magical words, 
and geographical references, the spell runs : 


" I shall take hold of an adze, I shall strike ! I shall 
enter my canoe, I shall make thee fly, O canoe, I shall 
make thee jump ! We shall fly like butterflies, like wind ; 
we shall disappear in mist, we shall vanish. You will 
pierce the straits of Kadimwatu (between the islands of 
Tewara and Uwama) you will break the promontory of 
Saramwa (near Dobu), pierce the passage of Loma (in 
Dawson Straits), die away in the distance, die away with 
the wind, fade away with the mist, vanish away. Break 
through your seaweeds (i.e., on coming against the shore). 
Put on your wreath (probably an allusion to the sea- 
weeds), make your bed in the sand. I turn round, I see 
the Vakuta men, the Kitava men behind me ; my sea, 
the sea of Pilolu (i.e., the sea between the Trobriands and 
the Amphletts) ; to-day the Kudayuri men will burn 
their fires (i.e., on the shores of Dobu). Bind your grass 
skirt together, O canoe " (here the personal name of the 
canoe is mentioned), " fly ! " The last phrase contains an 
implicit hint that the canoe partakes of the nature of a 
flying witch, as it should, according to the Kudayuri myth. 

After this, the canoe-builder proceeds to scoop out the 
log. This is a long task, and a heavy one, and one which 
requires a good deal of skill, especially towards the end, when the 
walls of the dug-out have to be made sufficiently thin, and when 

* Compare therefore Chapter XII, Division IV. 


the wood has to be taken off evenly over the whole surface. 
Thus, although at the beginning the canoe carpenter is usually 
helped by a few men his sons or brothers or nephews who in 
assisting him also learn the trade towards the end he has to 
do the work single-handed. It, therefore, always happens 
that this stage takes a very long time. Often the canoe will 
lie for weeks, untouched, covered with palm leaves against 
the sun, and filled with some water to prevent drying and 
cracking (see Plate XXV). Then the carpenter will set to 
work for a few days, and pause again. In almost all villages, 
the canoe is put up in the central place, or before the builder's 
hut. In some of the Eastern villages, the scooping out is done 
on the sea beach, to avoid pulling the heavy log to and from the 

Parallel with the process of hollowing out, the other parts 
of the canoe are made ready to be pieced together. Four 
broad and long planks form the gunwale ; L-shaped pieces of 
wood are cut into ribs ; long poles are prepared for longi- 
tudinal support of the ribs, and for platform rafters ; short 
poles are made ready as transversals of the platform and main 
supports of the outrigging ; small sticks to connect the float 
with the transversals ; finally, the float itself, a long, bulky 
log. These are the main, constituent parts of a canoe, to be 
made by the builder. The four carved boards are also made 
by him if he knows how to carve, otherwise another expert 
has to do this part of the work (see Plate XXVI). 

When all the parts are ready, another magical rite has to 
be performed. It is called " kapitunela nanola waga " : " the 
cutting off of the canoe's mind/' an expression which denotes 
a change of mind, a final determination. In this case, the canoe 
makes up its mind to run quickly. The formula is short, 
contains at the beginning a few obscure words, and then a few 
geographical references to some places in the d'Entrecasteaux 
Archipelago. It is recited over a few drops of coco-nut oil, 
which is then wrapped up in a small bundle. The same spell 
is then again spoken over the ligogu blade, round which a piece 
of dry banana has been wrapped in the manner described above. 
The canoe is turned bottom up, the bundle with coco-nut oil 
placed on it and struck with the adze. With this the canoe is 
ready to be pieced together, and the first stage of its 
construction is over. 



As has been said above, the two stages differ from one 
another in the nature of work done and in their sociological 
and ceremonial setting. So far, we have seen only a few men 
engaged in cutting the tree and scooping it out and then 
preparing the various parts of the canoe. Industriously, but 
slowly and deliberately, with many pauses, they toiPover their 
work, sitting on the brown, trodden soil of the village in front 
of the huts, or scooping the canoe in the central place. The 
first part of the task, the felling of the tree, took us to the tall 
jungle and intricate undergrowth, climbing and festooned 
around the fantastic shapes of coral rocks. 

Now, with the second stage, the scene shifts to the clean, 
snow-white sand of a coral beach, where hundreds of natives 
in festive array crowd around the freshly scraped body of the 
canoe. The carved boards, painted in black, white and red, 
the green fringe of palms and jungle trees, the blue of the sea 
all lend colour to the vivid and lively scene. Thus I saw the 
building of a canoe done on the East shore of the Trobriands, 
and in this setting I remember it. In Sinaketa, instead of the 
blue, open sea, breaking in a belt of white foam outside on the 
fringing reef and coming in limpid waves to the beach, there 
are the dull, muddy browns and greens of the Lagoon, playing 
into pure emerald tints where the clean sandy bottom begins. 

Into one of these two scenes, we must now imagine the 
dug-out transported from the village, after all is ready, and 
after the summons of the chief or headman has gone round the 
neighbouring villages. In the case of a big chief, several 
hundreds of natives will assemble to help, or to gaze on the 
performance. When a small community with a second-rate 
headman construct their canoe, only a few dozen people will 
come, the relatives-in-law of the headman and of other notables, 
and their close friends. 

After the body of the canoe and all the accessories have been 
placed in readiness, the proceedings are opened by a magical 
rite, called Katuliliva tabuyo. This rite belongs to the Kula 
magic, for which the natives have a special expression ; they 
call it mwasila. It is connected with the inserting of the 
ornamental prow-boards into their grooves at both ends of 
the canoe. These ornamental parts of the canoe are put in 
first of all, and this is done ceremonially. A few sprigs of the 


mint plant are inserted under the boards, as they are put in, 
and the toliwaga (owner of the canoe) hammers the boards in 
by means of a special stone imported from Dobu, and ritually 
repeats a formula of the mwasila magic. The mint plant 
(sulumwoya) plays an important part in the mwasila (Kula 
magic) as well as in love spells, and in the magic of beauty. 
Whenever a substance is to be medicated for the purpose of 
charming, seducing, or persuading, as a rule sulumwoya is 
used. This plant figures also in several myths, where it plays 
a similar part, the mythical hero always conquering the foe 
or winning a woman by the use of the sulumwoya. 

I shall not adduce the magical formulae in this account, 
with the exception of the most important one. Even a short 
summary of each of them would obstruct the narrative, and it 
would blur completely the outline of the consecutive account 
of the various activities. The various complexities of the 
magical ritual and of the formulae will be set forth in Chapter 
XVII. It may be mentioned here, however, that not only 
are there several types of magic performed during canoe 
building, such as the mwasila (Kula magic), the canoe speed 
magic, exorcisms against evil magic, and exorcism of the tokway, 
but within each of these types, there are different systems of 
magic, each with its own mythological basis, each localised in 
a different district, and each having of course different formulas 
and slightly different rites.* 

After the prow-boards are put in, and before the next bit 
of technical work is done, another magical rite has to be 
performed. The body of the canoe, now bright with the three- 
coloured boards, is pushed into the water. A handful of leaves, 
of a shrub called bobi'u, is charmed by the owner or by the 
builder, and the body of the canoe is washed in sea water with 
the leaves. All the men participate in the washing, and this 
rite is intended to make the canoe fast, by removing the traces 
of any evil influence, which might still have remained, in spite 
of the previous magic, performed on the waga. After the waga 
has been rubbed and washed, it is pulled ashore again and 
placed on the skid logs. 

Now the natives proceed to the main and most important 
constructive part of their work ; this consists of the erection 
of the gunwale planks at the sides of the dug-out log, so as to 

* All this is discussed at length in Chapter XVII, Division IV. 


form the deep and wide well of the built-up canoe. They are 
kept in position by an internal framework of some twelve to 
twenty pairs of ribs, and all of this is lashed together with a 
special creeper called wayugo, and the holes and interstices 
are caulked with a resinous substance. 

I cannot enter here into details of building, though from 
the technological point of view, this is the most interesting 
phase, showing us the native at grips with real problems of 
construction. He has a whole array of component parts, and 
he must make them fit together with a considerable degree of 
precision, and that without having any exact means of measure- 
ment. By a rough appreciation based on long experience and 
great skill, he estimates the relative shapes and sizes of the 
planks, the angles and dimensions of the ribs, and the lengths 
of the various poles. Then, in shaping them out, the builder 
tests and fits them in a preliminary manner as work goes on, 
and as a rule the result is good. But now, when all these 
component parts have to be pieced finally together, it nearly 
always happens that some bit or other fails to fit properly 
with the rest. These details have to be adjusted, a bit taken 
off the body of the canoe, a plank or pole shortened, or even a 
piece added. The natives have a very efficient way of lashing 
on a whole bit of a plank, if this proves too short, or if, by some 
accident, it breaks at the end. After all has been finally fitted, 
and made to tally, the framework of ribs is put into the canoe 
(see Plate XXVII), and the natives proceed to lash them to 
the body of the dug-out, and to the two longitudinal poles to 
which the ribs are threaded. 

And now a few words must be said about the wayugo, the 
lashing creeper. Only one species of creeper is used for the 
lashing of boats, and it is of the utmost importance that this 
creeper should be sound and strong. It is this alone that 
maintains the cohesion of the various parts, and in rough 
weather, very much depends on how the lashings will stand the 
strain. The other parts of the canoe the outrigger poles 
can be more easily tested, and as they are made of strong, 
elastic wood, they usually stand any weather quite well. Thus 
the element of danger and uncertainty in a canoe is due mainly 
to the creeper. No wonder, therefore, that the magic of the 
creeper is considered as one of the most important ritual items 
in canoe-building. 


In fact, wayugo, the name of that creeper species, is also 
used as a general term for canoe magic. When a man has the 
reputation of building or owning a good and fast canoe, the 
usual way of explaining it is to say that he has, or knows " a 
good wayugo." For, as in all other magic, there are several 
types of wayugo spells. The ritual is always practically the 
same : five coils of the creeper are, on the previous day, placed 
on a large wooden dish and chanted over in the ov/ner's hut by 
himself. Only exceptionally can this magic be done by the 
builder. Next day they are brought to the beach ceremonially 
on the wooden plate. In one of the wayugo systems, there is 
an additional rite, in which the toliwaga (canoe owner) takes 
a piece of the creeper, inserts it into one of the holes pierced in 
the rim of the dug-out for the lashing, and pulling it to and fro, 
recites once more the spell. 

In consideration of the importance of this magic, the 
formula will be here adduced in full. It consists of an exordium 
(u'ula), a double main part (tapwana], and a concluding period 
{dogma} * 


In the u'ula he first repeats " Sacred (or ritual) eating 
of fish, sacred inside," thus alluding to a belief that' the 
toliwaga has in connection with this magic to partake 
ritually of baked fish. Then come the words " Flutter, 
betel plant, leaving behind," all associated with leading 
ideas of canoe magic the flutter of pandanus streamers ; 
the betel nut, which the ancestral spirits in other rites are 
invited to partake of ; the speed by which all comrades 
will be left behind ! 

A list of ancestral names follows. Two of them, 
probably mythical personages, have significative names ; 
" Stormy sea " and " Foaming." Then the baloma 
(spirits) of these ancestors are asked to sit on the canoe 
slips and to chew betel, and they are invoked to take the 
pandanus streamer of the Kudayuri a place in Kitava, 
where the flying canoe magic originated and plant it on 
top of Teula or Tewara, the small island off the East 
coast of Fergusson. 

The magician after that chants : " I shall turn, I shall 
turn towards you, O men of Kitava, you remain behind 

* It is necessary to be acquainted with the mythology of canoe-building 
and of the Kula (Chapter XII) m order to understand thoroughly the meaning 
of this spell. 


on the To'uru beach (in the Lagoon of Vakuta). Before 
you lies the sea arm of Pilolu. To-day, they kindle the 
festive fire of the Kudayuri, thou, O my boat " (here the 
personal name of the boat is uttered), " bind thy skirts 
together and fly ! " In this passage which is almost 
identical with one in the previously quoted Ligogu spell 
there is a direct allusion to the Kudayuri myth, and to 
the custom of festive fires. Again the canoe is* addressed 
as a woman who has to bind her grass petticoat together 
during her flight, a reference to the belief that a flying 
witch binds her skirts when starting into the air and to 
the tradition that this myth originates from Na'ukuwakula, 
one of the flying Kudayuri sisters. The following main 
part continues with this mythical allusion : Na'ukuwakula 
flew from Kitava through Sinaketa and Kayleula to 
Simsim, where she settled down and transmitted the 
magic to her progeny. In this spell the three places : 
Kuyawa (a creek and hillock near Sinaketa), Dikutuwa (a 
rock near Kayleula), and La'u (a cleft rock in the sea 
near Simsim, in the Lousan^ay Islands) are the leading 
words of the tapwana. 

The last sentence of the first part, forming a transition 
into the tapwana, runs as follows : "I shall grasp the 
handle of the adze, I shall grip all the component parts 
of the canoe " perhaps another allusion to the mythical 
construction of the Kudayuri canoe (comp. Chap. XII, 
Div. IV) " I shall fly on the top of Kuyawa, I shall 
disappear ; dissolve in mist^ in smoke ; become like a 
wind eddy, become alone on top of Kuyawa/' The same 
words are then repeated, substituting for Kuyawa the 
two other above-mentioned spots, one after the other, 
and thus retracing the flight of Na'ukuwakula. 

Then the magician returns to the beginning and recites 
the spell over again up to the phrase : " bind thy skirt 
together and fly," which is followed this time by a second 
tapwana : "I shall outdistance all my comrades with the 
bottom of my canoe ; I shall out-distance all my comrades 
with the prow-board of my canoe, etc., etc.," repeating 
the prophetic boast with all the parts of the canoe, as is 
usual in the middle part of magical spells. 

In the dogina, the last part, the magician addresses 
the waga in mythological terms, with allusions to the 
Kudayuri myth, and adds : " Canoe thou art a ghost, 
thou art like a wind eddy ; vanish, my canoe, fly ; 
break through your sea-passage of Kadimwatu, cleave 
through the promontory of Saramwa, pass through Loma ; 




Within a couple of hours a number of men perform this enormous task of sewing together 

small bands of pandanus leaf (see Div. Ill and next Chapter Div. II) till they form a sail. 

Among the workers there is an albino 



This is the material of which the sail is made. The bisila (pandanus streamer) is made of a 
softer variety of pandanus leaf, bleached at a fire 


die away, disappear, vanish with an eddy, vanish with 
the mist ; make your imprint in the sand, cut through 
the seaweed, go, put on your wreath of aromatic herbs/'* 

After the wayugo has been ritually brought in, the lashing 
of the canoe begins. First of all the ribs are lashed into position 
then the planks, and with this the body of the canoe is ready. 
This takes a varying time, according to the number of 
people at work, and to the amount of tallying and adjusting 
to be done at the final fitting. Sometimes one whole day's 
work is spent on this stage, and the next piece of work, the 
construction of the outrigger, has to be postponed to another 
day. This is the next stage, and there is no magic to punctuate 
the course of technical activities. The big, solid log is put 
alongside the canoe, and a number of short, pointed sticks are 
driven into it. The sticks are put in crossways on the top of 
the float (lamina}. Then the tops of these sticks are again 
attached to a number of horizontal poles, which have to be 
thrust through one side of the canoe-body, and attached to 
the other. All this naturally requires again adjusting and 
fitting. When these sticks and poles are bound together, 
there results a strong yet elastic frame, in which the canoe and 
the float are held together in parallel positions, and across them 
transversely there run the several horizontal poles which keep 
them together. Next, these poles are bridged over by many 
longitudinal sticks lashed together, and thus a platform is 
made between the edge of the canoe and the tops of the float 

When that is done, the whole frame of the canoe is ready, 
and there remains only to caulk the holes and interstices. 
The caulking substance is prepared in the hut of the toliwaga, 
and a spell is recited over it on the evening before the work is 
begun. Then again, the whole community turn out and do 
the work in one day's sitting. 

The canoe is now ready for the sea, except for the painting, 
which is only for ornamentation. Three more magical rites 
have to be performed, however, before it is painted and then 
launched. All three refer directly to the canoe, and aim at 
giving it speed. At the same time all three are exorcisms 
against evil influences, resulting from various defilements or 
broken taboos, which possibly might have desecrated the waga. 

* Compare the linguistic analysis of this spell in Chapter XVIII. 


The first is called Vakasulu, which means something like " ritual 
cooking " of the canoe. The toliwaga has tc prepare a real 
witches' cauldron of all sorts of things, which afterwards are 
burnt under the bottom of the canoe, and the smoke is supposed 
to exercise a speed-giving and cleansing influence. The 
ingredients are : the wings of a bat, the nest of a very small 
bird called posisiku, some dried bracken leaves, a bit % of cotton 
fluff, and some lalang grass. All the substances are associated 
with flying and lightness. The wood used for kindling the fire 
is that of the light-timbered mimosa tree (liga). The twigs 
have to be obtained by throwing at the tree a piece of wood 
(never a stone), and when the broken-off twig falls, it must be 
caught in the hand, and not allowed to touch the ground. 

The second rite, called Vaguri, is an exorcism only, and it 
consists of charming a stick, and then knocking the body of the 
canoe all over with it. This expells the evil witchery (bulub- 
walata), which it is only wise to suspect has been cast by some 
envious rivals, or persons jealous of the toliwaga. 

Finally, the third of these rites, the Kaytapena wagi, 
consists in medicating a torch of coco-leaf with the appropriate 
spell, and fumigating with it the inside of the canoe. This 
gives speed and once more cleanses the canoe. 

After another sitting of a few days, the whole outside of 
the canoe is painted in three colours. Over each of them a 
special spell is chanted again, the most important one over the 
black colour. This is never omitted, while the red and white 
spells are optional. In the rite of the black colour, again, a 
whole mixture of sunstances is used a dry bracken leaf, grass, 
and a posisiku nest all this is charred with some coco-nut 
husk, and the first strokes of the black paint are made with the 
mixture. The rest is painted with a watery mixture of charred 
coco-nut For red colour, a sort of ochre, imported from the 
d'Entrecasteaux Islands, is used ; the white one is made of a 
chalky earth, found in certain parts of the sea shore. 

Sail-making is done on another day, usually in the village, 
by communal labour, and, with a number of people helping, 
the tedious and complicated work is performed in a relatively 
short time. The triangular outline of the sail is first pegged 
out on the ground, as a rule the old sail being used as a pattern. 
After this is done, tapes of dried pandanus leaf (see Plates 
XXVIII, XXIX) are stretched on the ground and first fixed 


along the borders of the sail. Then, starting at the apex of 
the triangle, the sail-makers put tapes radiating towards the 
base, sewing them together with awls of flying fox bone, and 
using as thread narrow strips of specially toughened pandanus 
leaf. Two layers of tapes are sewn one on top of the other to 
make a solid fabric. 


The canoe is now quite ready to be launched. But before 
we go on to an account of the ceremonial launching and the 
associated festivities, one or two general remarks must be 
made retrospectively about the proceedings just described. 

The whole of the first stage of canoe-building, that is, the 
cutting of the tree, the scooping out of the log, and the pre- 
paration of the other component parts, with all their associated 
magic, is done only when a new canoe is built. 

But the second stage has to be performed over all the canoes 
before every great overseas Kula expedition. On such an 
occasion, all the canoes have to be re-lashed, re-caulked, and 
re-painted. This obviously requires that they should all be 
taken to pieces and then lashed, caulked and painted exactly 
as is done with a new canoe. All the magic incidental to these 
three processes is then performed, in its due order, over the 
renovated canoe. So that we can say about the second stage 
of canoe-building that not only is it always performed in 
association with the Kula, but that no big expedition ever 
takes place without it. 

We have had a description of the magical rites, and the 
ideas which are implied in every one of them have been specified. 
But there are one or two more general characteristics which 
must be mentioned here. First, there is what could be called 
the " ceremonial dimension " of magical rites. That is, 
how far is the performance of the rite attended by the members 
of the community, if at all ; and if so, do they actively take 
part in it, or do they simply pay keen attention and behave 
as an interested audience ; or, though being present, do they 
pay little heed and show only small interest ? 

In the first stage of canoe-building, the rites are performed 
by the magician himself, with only a few helpers in attendance, 
The general village public do not feel sufficiently interested 
and attracted to assist, nor are they bound by custom to do so, 


The general character of these rites is more like the perform- 
ance of a technicality of work than of a ceremony. The 
preparing of herbs for the ligogu magic, for instance, and the 
charming it over, is carried out in a matter-of-fact, business- 
like manner, and nothing in the behaviour of the magician and 
those casually grouped around him would indicate that anything 
specially interesting in the routine work is happening. 

The rites of the second stage are ipso facto attended by all 
those who help in piecing together and lashing, but on the whole 
those present have no special task assigned to them in the per- 
formance ol these rites. As to the attention and behaviour 
during the performance of the magic, much depends of course on 
whether the magician officiating is a chief of great importance 
or someone of low rank. A certain decorum and even silence 
would be observed in any case. But many of those present 
would turn aside and go away, if they wanted to do so. The 
magician does not produce the impression of an officiating 
high priest performing a solemn ceremony, frut rather of a 
specialised workman doing a particularly important piece of 
work. It must be remembered that all the rites are simple, 
and the chanting of the spells in public is done in a low voice, 
and quickly, without any specially effective vocal production. 
Again, the caulking and the wayugo rites are, in some types of 
magic at least, performed in the magician's hut, without any 
attendance whatever, and so is that of the black paint. 

Another point of general importance is what could be 
called the stringency of magic rites. In canoe magic, for 
instance, the expulsion of the tokway, the ritual cutting of the 
pulling rope, the magic of the adze (ligogu), that of the lashing 
creeper (wayugo), of the caulking, and of the black paint can 
never be omitted. Whereas the other rites are optional, 
though as a rule some of them are performed. But even those 
which are considered indispensable do not all occupy the same 
place of importance in native mythology and in native ideas, 
which is clearly expressed in the behaviour of the natives and 
their manner of speaking of them. Thus, the general term 
tor canoe magic is either wayugo or ligogu, from which we can 
see that these two spells are considered the most important. 
A man will speak about his wayugo being better than that of 
the other, or of having learnt his ligogu from his father. Again, 
as we shall see in the canoe myth, both these rites are explicitly 


mentioned there. Although the expulsion of the tokway is 
always done, it is definitely recognised by the natives as being 
of lesser importance. So are also the magic of caulking and 
of the black paint. 

A less general point, of great interest, however, is that of 
evil magic (bulubwalata) and of broken taboos. I had to 
mention several exorcisms against those influences, and some- 
thing must be said about them here. The term bulubwalata 
covers all forms of evil magic or witchery. There is that 
which, directed against pigs, makes them run away from their 
owners into the bush ; there is bulubwalata for alienating the 
affections of a wife or sweetheart ; there is evil magic against 
gardens, and perhaps the most dreaded one evil magic 
against rain, producing drought and famine. The evil magic 
against canoes, making them slow, heavy, and unseaworthy, 
is also much feared. Many men profess to know it, but it is 
very difficult for the Ethnographer to obtain a formula, and I 
succeeded only in taking down one. It is always supposed to 
be practised by canoe-owners upon the craft which they regard 
as dangerous rivals of their own. 

There are many taboos referring to an already constructed 
canoe, and we shall meet with them later when speaking about 
sailing and handling the canoe. But before that stage is 
reached, any defilement with any unclean substance of the log 
out of which the canoe is scooped, would make it slow and 
bad ; or if anybody were to walk over a canoe log or stand on 
it there would be the same evil result. 

One more point must be mentioned here. As we have 
seen, the first magical rite, of the second stage of construction, 
is performed over the prow-boards. The question obtrudes 
itself as to whether the designs on these boards have any 
magical meaning. It must be clearly understood that any 
guesswork or speculations about origins must be rigidly excluded 
from ethnographic field work like this. For a sociologically 
empirical answer, the Ethnographer must look to two classes 
of facts. First of all, he may directly question the natives as 
to whether the prow-boards themselves or any of the motives 
upon them are done for magical purposes. Whether he 
questions the average man, or even the specialist in canoe magic 
and carving, to this he will always receive in Kiriwina a 
negative answer. He can then enquire whether in the magical 


ritual for formulae there are no references to the prow-boards, 
or to any of the decorative motives on them. Here also, the 
evidence on the whole is negative. In one spell perhaps, and 
that belonging not to canoe but to the Kula magic (comp 
below, Chap. XIII, Div. II, the Kayikuna Tabuyo spell), 
there can be found an allusion to the prow-boards, but only 
to the term describing them in general, and not to ahy special 
decorative motive. Thus the only association between canoe 
decoration and canoe magic consists in the fact that two magical 
rites are performed over them, one mentioned already, and the 
other to be mentioned at the beginning of the next chapter. 

The description of canoe-building, in fact, all the data 
given in this chapter, refer only to one of the two types of 
sea-going canoe to be found in the Kula district. For the 
natives of the Eastern half of the ring use craft bigger, and in 
certain respects better, than the masawa. The main difference 
between the Eastern and Western type consists in the fact 
that the bigger canoes have a higher gunwale or side, and 
consequently a greater carrying capacity, and they can be 
immersed deeper. The larger water board offers more 
resistance against making leeway, and this allows the canoes 
to be sailed closer to the wind. Consequently, the Eastern 
canoes can beat, and these natives are therefore much more 
independent of the direction of the wind in their sailings. 
With this is connected the position of the mast, which in this 
type is stepped in the middle, and it is also permanently fixed, 
and is not taken down every time after sailing. It obviously, 
therefore, need not be changed in its position every time the 
canoe goes on another tack. 

I have not seen the construction of a nagega, as these 
canoes are called, but I think that it is technically a much 
more difficult task than the building of a masawa. I was told 
that both magic and ceremonial of construction are very much 
the same in the building of both canoes. 

The nagega, that is the larger and more seaworthy type, 
is used on the section of the Kula ring beginning in Gawa and 
ending in Tubetube. It is also used in certain parts of the 
Massim district, which lie outside the Kula ring, such as the 
Island of Sud-Est, and surrounding smaller islands, and it is 
used among the Southern Massim of the mainland. But 
though its use is very widely spread, its manufacture is confined 


to only a few places. The most important centres of nagega 
building are Gawa, a few villages on Woodlark Islands, the 
Island of Panayati, and perhaps one or two places on Misima. 
From there, the canoes are traded all over the district, and 
indeed this is one of the most important forms of trade in this 
part of the world. The masawa canoes are used and manu- 
factured in the district of Dobu, in the Amphletts, in the 
Trobriands, in Kitava and Iwa. 

One point of great importance in the relation of these two 
forms of canoe is that one of them has, within the last two 
generations, been expanding at the expense of the other. 
According to reliable information, gathered at several points 
in the Trobriands and the Amphletts, the nagega type, that is 
the heavier, more seaworthy and better-sailing canoe, was 
driven out some time ago from the Amphletts and Trobriands. 
The masawa, in many respects inferior, but less difficult to 
build, and swifter, has supplanted the bigger type. In olden 
days, that is, about two or three generations ago, the nagega 
was used exclusively in Iwa, Kitava, Kiriwina, Vakuta, and 
Sinaketa, while the Amphlettans and the natives of Kayleula 
would usually use the nagega, though sometimes they would 
sail in masawa canoes. Dobu was the real home and head- 
quarters of the masawa. When the shifting began, and when 
it was completed, I could not ascertain. But the fact is that 
nowadays even the villages of Kitava and Iwa manufacture 
the smaller masawa canoe. Thus, one of the most important 
cultural items is spreading from South to North. There is, 
however, one point on which I could not obtain definite in- 
formation : that is, whether in the Trobriands the nagega in 
olden days was imported from Kitava, or whether it was 
manufactured locally by imported craftsmen (as is done even 
nowadays in Kiriwina at times), or whether the Trobrianders 
themselves knew how to make the big canoes. There is no 
doubt, however, that in olden days, the natives of Kitava and 
Iwa used themselves to make the nagega canoes. The Kudayuri 
myth (see Chapter XII), and the connected magic, refer to 
this type of canoe. Thus in this district at any rate, and 
probably in the Trobriands and Amphletts as well, not only 
the use, but also the manufacture of the bigger canoe has been 
superseded by that of the smaller one, the masawa, now found 
in all these parts. 



THE canoe, painted and decorated, stands now ready to be 
launched, a source of pride to the owners and to the makers, 
and an object of admiration to the other beholders. A new 
sailing craft is not only another utility created ; it is more : 
if is a new entity sprung into being, something with which 
the future destinies of the sailors will be bound up, and on 
which they will depend. There can be no doubt that this 
sentiment is also felt by the natives and expressed in their 
customs and behaviour. The canoe receives a personal name, 
it becomes an object of intense interest to the whole district. 
Its qualities, points of beauty, and of probable perfection or 
faultiness are canvassed round the fires at night. The owner 
and his kinsmen and fellow villagers will speak of it with the 
usual boasting and exaggerations, and the others will all be 
very keen to see it, and to watch its performances. Thus the 
institution of ceremonial launching is not a mere formality 
prescribed by custom ; it corresponds to the psychological 
needs of the community, it rouses a great interest, and is very 
well attended even when the canoe belongs to a small com- 
munity. When a big chief's canoe is launched, whether that 
of Kasanai or Omarakana, Olivilevi or Sinaketa, up to a 
thousand natives will assemble on the beach. 

This festive and public display of a finished canoe, with its 
full paint and ornament, is not only in harmony with the 
natives' sentiments towards a new sailing craft ; it also agrees 
with the way they treat in general the results of their economic 
activities. Whether in gardening or in fishing, in the building 
of houses or in industrial achievements, there is a tendency to 
display the products, to arrange them, and even adorn at 
least certain classes of them, so as to produce a big, aesthetic 


effect. In fishing, there are only traces of this tendency, 
but in gardening, it assumes very great proportions, and the 
handling, arranging and display of garden produce is one of 
the most characteristic features of their tribal life, and it takes 
up much time and work.* 

Soon after the painting and adorning of the canoe, a date 
is fixed for the ceremonial launching and trial run, the tasasoria 
festivities, as they are called. Word is passed to the chiefs 
and headmen of the neighbouring villages. Those of them 
who own canoes and who belong to the same Kula community 
have always to come with their canoes and take part in a sort 
of regatta held on the occasion. As the new canoe is always 
constructed in connection with a Kula expedition, and as the 
other canoes of the same Kula community have to be either 
done up or replaced, it is the rule that on the tasasoria day a 
whole fleet of brand new or renovated canoes assemble on the 
beach, all resplendent in fresh colours and decoration of cowrie 
shells and bleached pandanus streamers. 

The launching itself is inaugurated with a rite of . the 
mwasila (Kula magic), called Kaytalula wadola waga (" staining 
red of the mouth of the canoe "). After the natives have taken 
off the plaited coco-nut leaves with which the canoe is pro- 
tected against the sun, the toli.waga chants a spell over some red 
ochre, and stains both bow and stern of the canoe. A special 
cowrie shell, attached to the prow-board (tabuyo) is stained at 
each end. After that the canoe is launched, the villagers 
pushing it into the water over pieces of wood transversely 
placed which act as slips (see Plate XXX). This is done 
amidst shouts and ululations, such as are made on all occasions 
when some piece of work has to be done in a festive and 
ceremonial manner, when, for instance, the harvest is brought 
in and given ceremonially by a man to his brother-in-law, or 
when a gift of yams or taro is laid down before a fisherman's 
house by an inland gardener, or the return gift of fish is made. 

Thus the canoe is finally launched after the long series of 
mingled work and ceremony, technical effort and magical rite. 

After the launching is done, there takes place a feast, or, 
more correctly, a distribution of food (sagali) under observation 
of all sorts of formalities and ritual. Such a distribution 

* Cf. Chapter II, Divisions III and IV, and some of the following Divi- 
sions of this Chapter. 


is always made when the toliwaga has not built the canoe him- 
self, and when he therefore has to repay the cutter of the 
canoe and his helpers. It also takes place whenever the canoe 
of a big chief is launched, in order to celebrate the occasion, 
to show oft his wealth and generosity, and to give food to the 
many people who have been summoned to assist in the 

After the sagali (ceremonial distribution of food) is over, 
as a rule, in the afternoon, the new canoe is rigged, the mast 
is put up, the sail attached, and this and all the other boats 
make a trial run. It is not a competitive race in the strict 
sense of the word. The chief's canoe, which indeed would as 
a rule be best and fastest, in any case always wins the race. 
If it did not sail fastest, the others would probably keep back. 
The trial run is rather a display of the new canoe, side by side 
with the others. 

In order to give one concrete illustration of the ceremonial 
connected with canoe building and launching, it may be well 
to relate an actual event. I shall therefore describe the 
tasasoria, seen on the beach of Kaulukuba, in February, 1916, 
when the new canoe of Kasana'i was launched. Eight canoes 
took part in the trial run, that is, all the canoes of Kiriwina, 
which forms what I have called the " Kula community/' the 
social group who make their Kula expeditions in a body, and 
who have the same limits within which they carry on their 
exchange of valuables. 

The great event which was the cause of the building and 
renovating of the canoes, was a Kula expedition planned by 
To'ulawa and his Kula community. They were to go to the 
East, to Kitava, to Iwa or Gawa, perhaps even to Muruwa 
(Woodlark Island), though with this island the natives do not 
carry on the Kula directly. As is usual in such cases, months 
before the approximate date of sailing, plans and forecasts were 
made, stories of previous voyages were recounted, old men dwelt 
on their own reminiscences and reported what they had been 
told by their elders of the days when iron was unknown and 
everyone had to sail to the East in order to get the green 
stone quarried in Suloga on Woodlark Island. And so, as it 
always happens when future events are talked over round 
village fires, imagination outran all bounds of probability ; 
and the hopes and anticipations grew bigger and bigger. In 


Nigada Bu'a, after its renovation, being pushed into the water. (Sec Div. I.) 



Stepping the masts and getting the sails ready for the run. In the foreground To'uluwa, 
the chief of Kiriwina, standing at the mast, supervises the rigging of Nigada flu a 



This illustrates the display of yarns in the interstices between the logs of the wall, and the 
decorations of cocoanuts, running round the gable, along the supports and the walls. This 
yam house was quite recently put up and its barge boards had not yet been erected. (See 

Div. IV.) 



The yams are taken from the conical heaps and put into the bwayma (store houses) by the 
brother-in-law (wife's brother) of the owner. Note the decorations on the gable the owner 
being a gumguya'u (chief of lower rank). (See Div. IV.) 


the end, everyone really believed his party would go at least to 
the Easternmost Marshall Bennetts (Gawa), whereas, as events 
turned out, they did not sail beyond Kitava. 

For this occasion a new canoe had to be constructed in 
Kasana'i, and this was done by Ibena himself, the chief of that 
village, a man of rank equal to the highest chief (his kinsman, 
in fact) but of smaller power. Ibena is a skilled builder as 
well as a fair carver, and there is no class of magic in which 
he does not profess to be versed. The canoe was built, under 
his guidance ; he carved the boards himself, he also performed 
the magic, and he was, of course, the toliwaga. 

In Omarakana, the canoe had to be slightly altered in 
construction ; it had to be re-lashed and re-painted. To do 
this IVuluwa, the chief, had summoned a master builder and 
carver from the island of Kitava, the same one who a couple 
of years before, had built this canoe. Also a new sail had to 
be made for the Omarakana boat, as the old one was too small. 
The ceremony of tasasoria (launching and regatta) ought by 
rights to have been held on the beach of Kasana'i, but as its 
sister village, Omarakana, is so much more important, it took 
place on KauJukuba, the sea-shore of the latter. 

As the date approached, the whole district was alive with 
preparations, since the coastal villages had to put their canoes 
in order, while in the inland communities, new festive dresses 
and food had to be made ready. The food was not to be eaten, 
but to be offered to the chief for his sagali (ceremonial distri- 
bution). Only in Omarakana, the women had to cook for a 
big festive repast to be eaten on return from the tasasoria. In 
the Trobriands it is always a sign that a festive event is pending 
when all the women go in the evening to the bush to collect 
plenty of firewood. Next morning, this will be used for the 
kumkumuli, the baking of food in the ground, which is one of 
the forms of cooking used on festive occasions. On the 
evening of the tasasoria ceremony, people in Omarakana and 
Kasana'i were also busy with the numerous other preparations, 
running to the shore and back, filling baskets with yams for 
the sagali, getting ready their festive dress and decorations 
for the morrow. Festive dress means, for a woman, a new 
grass skirt, resplendent in fresh red, white and purple, and for 
the man a newly bleached, snow-white pubic leaf, made of the 
stalk of areca palm leaf. 


Early in the morning of the appointed day, the food was 
packed into baskets of plaited leaf, the personal apparel on top 
of it, all covered as usual with folded mats and conveyed to 
the beach. The women carried on their heads the large 
baskets, shaped like big inverted bells, the men shouldered a 
stick with two bag-shaped baskets at each end. Other men had 
to carry the oars, paddles, rigging and sail, as these para- 
phenalia are always kept in the village. From one of the 
villages, one of the large, prismatic receptacles for food made 
of sticks was carried by several men right over the raybwag 
(coral ridge) to be offered to the chief of Omarakana as a share 
in the sagali. The whole village was astir, and on its out- 
skirts, through the surrounding groves, parties from inland 
could be seen making their way rapidly to the shore. I left 
the village with a party of notables at about eight o'clock in 
the morning. After leaving the grove of fruit and palm trees 
which grows especially densely around^the village of Omarakana, 
we entered between the two walls of green, the usual monoton- 
ous Trobriand road, which passes through the low scrub. Soon, 
emerging on a garden space, we could see, beyond a gentle 
declivity, the rising slope of the raybwag, a mixture of rank 
vegetation with monumental boulders of grey coral standing 
out here and there. Through this, the path led on, following 
in an intricate course between small precipices and towering 
outcrops, passing huge, ancient ficus trees, spreading around 
them their many trunks and aerial roots. At the top of the 
ridge, all of a sudden the blue sea shone through the foliage, 
and the roar of waves breaking on the reef struck our ears. 
Soon we found ourselves among the crowd assembled on the 
beach, near to the big boat-shed of Omarakana. 

By about nine o'clock, everybody was ready on the beach. 
It was fully exposed to the Eastern sun, but this was not yet 
sufficiently high to drop its light right from above, and thus to 
produce that deadly effect of tropical mid-day, where the 
shadows instead of modelling out the details, blur every 
vertical surface and make everything dull and formless. The 
beach appeared bright and gaudy, and the lively brown bodies 
looked well against the background of green foliage and white 
sand. The natives were anointed with coco-nut oil, and 
decorated with flowers and facial paint. Large red hibiscus 
blossoms were stuck into their hair, and wreaths of the white, 


wonderfully scented butia flowers crowned the dense black 
mops. There was a good display of ebony carvings, sticks 
and lime spoons. There were decorated lime pots, and such 
objects of personal adornment as belts of red shell discs or of 
small cowrie shells, nose sticks (very rarely used nowadays), 
and other articles so well known to everybody from ethnological 
collections in museums, and usually called "ceremonial/' 
though, as said above (Chapter III, Div. Ill) the description 
" objects of parade " would be much more in agreement with 
the correct meaning of the words. 

Such popular festivities as the one just being described 
are the occasions on which these objects of parade, some of 
which astonish us by their artistic perfection, appear in native 
life. Before I had opportunities to see savage art in actual 
display, in its proper, " living " setting, there seemed to me 
always to exist some incongruity between the artistic finish 
of such objects and the general crudity of savage life, a crudity 
marked precisely on the aesthetic side. One imagines greasy, 
dirty, naked bodies, moppy hair full of vermin, and other 
realistic features which make up one's idea of the " savage/' 
and in some respects reality bears out imagination. As a 
matter of fact though, the incongruity does not exist when 
once one has seen native art actually displayed in its own 
setting- A festive mob of natives, with the wonderful golden- 
brown colour of their skins brought out by washing and 
anointing and set off by the gaudy white, red and black of 
facial paint, feathers and ornaments, with their exquisitely 
carved and polished ebony objects, with their finely worked 
lime pots, has a distinct elegance of its own, without striking 
one as grotesque or incongruous in any aesthetic detail. There 
is an evident harmony between their festive mood, the display 
of colours and forms, and the manner in which they put on and 
bear their ornaments. 

Those who have come from a distance, and who would 
spoil their decorations by the long march, wash with water 
and anoint themselves with coco-nut grease immediately before 
arriving at the scene of festivities. As a rule the best paint 
is put on later on, when the climax of the proceedings approaches. 
On this occasion, after the preliminaries (distribution of food, 
arrival of other canoes) were over, and when the races were 
just going to be started, the aristocracy of Omarakana the 


wives and children of To'uluwa, his relatives and himself 
withdrew behind the shelters, near the boat shed, and pro- 
ceeded to put on the red, white and black of full facial paint. 
They crushed young betel-nut, mixed it with lime, and put 
it on with the pestles of betel mortars ; then some of the 
aromatic black resin (sayaku) and white lime were applied. 
As the habit of mirrors is not quite well established yet in the 
Trobriands, the painting was done by one person on the face 
of another, and great care and patience were displayed on 
both sides. 

The numerous crowd spent the day without taking much 
refreshment a feature strongly differentiating Kiriwinian 
festivities from our ideal of an entertainment or picnic. No 
cooking was done, and only a few bananas were eaten here and 
there, and green coco-nuts were drunk and eaten. But even 
these refreshments were consumed with great frugality. 

As always on such occasions, the people collected together 
in sets, the visitors from each village forming a group apart. 
The local natives kept to their own boat houses, those of 
Omarakana and Kurokaiwa having their natural centres on 
the beach of Kaulukuba. The other visitors similarly kept 
together in their position on the beach, according to their local 
distribution ; thus, men from the Northern villages would keep 
to the Northern section of the beach, those from the South 
would stick to that point of the compass, so that villages which 
were neighbours in reality would also be side by side on the 
shore. There was no mingling in the crowd, and individuals 
would not walk about from one group to another. The 
aristocrats, out of personal dignity, humble folk because of a 
modesty imposed by custom, would keep in their places. 
To'uluwa sat practically during the whole performance, on the 
platform erected for this purpose, except when he went over to 
his boat, to trim it for the race. 

The boat shed of Omarakana, round which the chief, his 
family and the other villagers were grouped, was the centre 
of all the proceedings. Under one of the palms, a fairly high 
platform was put up to accommodate To'uluwa. In a row 
in front of the sheds and shelters, there stood the prismatic 
food receptacles (pwata'i). They had been erected by the 
inhabitants of Omarakana and Kasana'i, on the previous day, 
and partially filled with yams. The rest had to be supplied 


by people from the other villages, on the day of the boat races. 
As the natives came to the beach on that day, village after 
village, they brought their contribution, and before settling 
down on their particular spot on the shore, they paid a visit 
to the chief and offered him their tributes. These would be 
put into one of the pwata'i. All the villages did not contribute 
their share, but the majority did, though some of them brought 
only a few baskets. One of the villages brought one 
complete pwata'i, filled with yams, and offered the whole 
to the chief. 

In the meantime, the eight canoes arrived, including that 
of Kasana'i, which had been ceremonially launched that 
morning with the accompanying magical rite, on its own beach 
about half a mile away. The canoe of Omarakana had also been 
launched on this morning (Plate XXX), and the same rite 
performed over it. It ought to have been done by To'uluwa, 
the chief. As he, however, is quite incapable of remembering 
magical spells in fact, he never does any of the magic which 
his rank and office impose on him the rite was performed on 
this occasion by one of his kinsmen. This is a typical case of 
a rule very stringently formulated by all informants when you 
ask about it, yet in reality often observed with laxity. If 
you inquire directly, everyone will tell you that this rite, as all 
others of the mwasila (Kula magic) has to be done by the 
ioliwaga. But every time when he ought to perform it, 
To'uluwa will find some excuse, and delegate it to another. 

When all the canoes were present, as well as all the 
important villages, at about eleven o'clock a.m., there took 
place the sagali (ceremonial distribution). The food was 
given to people from various villages, especially such as 
took part in the races, or had assisted in the building of the 
new canoe. So we see that food contributed by all the villages 
before the sagali was simply redistributed among them, a 
considerable quantity having been added first by the chief ; 
and this indeed is the usual procedure at a sagali. In this 
case, of course, the lion's share was taken by the Kitavans 
who helped at the building. 

After the sagali was over, the canoes were all brought up 
to one spot, and the natives began to prepare them for the 
race. The masts were stepped, the fastenings trimmed, the 
sails made ready (see Plate XXXI). After that the canoes 


all put off and gathered about half a mile off the shore, beyond 
the fringing reef ; and at a sign given by some one on one of 
them, they all started. As said before, such a run is not a 
race properly speaking, in which the canoes would start 
scrupulously at the same minute, have the same distance to 
cover, and which would clearly show which is the fastest. In 
this case, it was merely, as always, a review of the boats sailing 
along as well as they were able, a review in which they all began 
to move, more or less at the same time, went in the same 
direction, and covered practically the same distance. 

As to the time table of the events, the sagali was over before 
mid-day. There was a pause ; and then, at about one p.m., 
the natives began rigging the canoes. Then all hands had a 
spell, and not before three p.m. were the races started. The 
whole affair was over by about four o'clock, and half an hour 
later, the boats from the other villages started to sail home, 
the people on the shore dispersed, so that by sunset, that 
is, about six o'clock, the beach was almost deserted. 

Such was the tasasoria ceremony which I saw in February, 
1916. It was a fine sight from the spectacular point of view. 
A superficial onlooker could have hardly perceived any sign 
of white man's influence or interference. I was the only 
white man present, and besides myself only some two or three 
native missionary teachers were dressed in white cotton. 
Amongst the rest of us there could be seen sparsely a coloured 
rag, tied round as a neckerchief or head-dress. But otherwise 
there was only a swarm of naked brown bodies, shining with 
coco-nut oil, adorned in new festive dress, with here and there 
the three-coloured grass skirt of a woman (see Plates XXX 
and XXXI). 

But alas, for one who could look below the surface and read 
the various symptoms of decay, deep changes would be 
discernible from what must have been the original conditions 
of such a native gathering. In fact, some three generations 
ago, even its appearances would have been different. The 
natives then would have been armed with shields and spears ; 
some would have borne decorative weapons, such as the big 
sword-clubs of hard wood, or massive ebony cudgels, or small 
thro wing-sticks. A closer inspection would have shown many 
more decorations and ornaments, such as nose-sticks, finely 
carved lime spatulae, gourds with burnt-in designs, some of 


which are now out of use, or those used of inferior workmanship 
or without decoration. 

But other and much deeper changes have taken place in 
the social conditions. Three generations ago both the canoes 
in the water and the people on the shore would have been more 
numerous. As mentioned above, in the olden days there would 
have been some twenty canoes in Kiriwina, as against eight 
at the present time. Again, the far stronger influence of 
the chief, and the much greater relative importance of the 
event would have attracted a larger proportion out of the 
then more numerous population. Nowadays, other interests, 
such as diving for pearls, working on white man's plantations, 
divert the native attention, while many events connected 
with Missions, Government and trading, eclipse the importance 
of old customs. 

Again, the people on the shore would have had to adhere 
in olden days even more closely to the local distribution, men 
of the same village community keeping together still more 
strictly, and looking with mistrust and perhaps even hostility, 
at other groups, especially those with whom they had hereditary 
feuds. The general tension would often be broken by squabbles 
or even miniature fights, especially at the moment of dispersing, 
and on the way home. 

One of the important features of the performance, and 
the one of which the natives think perhaps most the display 
of food would also have been quite different. The chief 
whom I saw sitting on a platform surrounded by a few wives 
only, and with small attendance would, under the old 
conditions, have been the owner of thrice as many wives and 
consequently relatives-in-law, and as it is these from whom he 
derives most of his income, he would have provided a much 
bigger sagali than he is able to do nowadays. 

Three generations ago the whole event would have been 
much more solemn and dramatic to the natives. The very 
distance to the neighbouring island of Kitava is nowadays 
dwarfed. In the past, it would not, as now, be quickly 
obliterated by a white man's steam-launch. Then, the canoes 
on the beach were the only means of arriving there, and their 
value in the eyes of the natives must have, therefore, been 
even higher, although they think so much of them now. The 
outlines of the distant island and the small fleet of canoes on 


the beach formed for the natives the first act of a big over seas 
expedition, an event of far deeper significance to them then 
than now. A rich haul of arm-shells, the arrival of many 
much-coveted utilities, the bringing back of news from the 
far-off land, all this meant much more in older days than it 
can mean at present. War, dancing, and the Kula supplied 
tribal life with its romantic and heroic elements. Nowadays, 
with war prohibited by the Government, with dancing dis- 
credited by missionary influence, the Kula alone remains, 
and even that is stripped of some of its glamour. 


Before we proceed to the next stage, we must pause in 
following the events of a Kula expedition, and consider one 
or two points of more general importance. I have touched in 
the narrative, but not dwelt upon, certain problems of the 
sociology of work. At the outset of the preceding chapter it 
was mentioned that canoe-building requires a definite organisa- 
tion of work, and in fact we saw that in the course of 
construction, various kinds of labour were employed, and more 
especially towards the end, much use was made of communal 
labour. Again, we saw that during the launching ceremony 
payment was given by the owner to the expert and his helpers. 
These two points therefore, the organisation of labour and 
communal labour in particular, and the system of payment for 
experts' work must be here developed. 

Organisation of Labour. First of all, it is important to 
realise that a Kiriwinian is capable of working well, efficiently 
and in a continuous manner. But he must work under an 
effective incentive : he must be prompted by some duty 
imposed by tribal standards, or he must be lured by ambitions 
and values also dictated by custom and tradition. Gain, 
such as is often the stimulus for work in more civilised com- 
munities, never acts as an impulse to work under the original 
native conditions. It succeeds very badly, therefore, when a 
white man tries to use this incentive to make a native work. 

This is the reason why the traditional view of the lazy and 
indolent native is not only a constant refrain of the average 
white settler, but finds its way into good books of travel, and 
even serious ethnographic records. With us, labour is, or was 
till fairly recently, a commodity sold as any other, in the 


open market. A man accustomed to think in terms of current 
economic theory will naturally apply the conceptions of supply 
and demand to labour, and he applies them therefore to native 
labour. The untrained person does the same, though in less 
sophisticated terms, and as they see that the native will not 
work well for the white man, even if tempted by considerable 
payment and treated fairly well, they conclude that his 
capacity for labour is very small. This error is due to the same 
cause which lies at the bottom of all our misconceptions about 
people of different cultures If you remove a man from his 
social milieu, you eo ipso deprive him of almost all his stimuli 
to moral steadfastness and economic efficiency and even of 
interest in life. If then you measure him by moral, legal or 
economic standards, also essentially foreign to him, you cannot 
but obtain a caricature in your estimate. 

But the natives are not only capable of energetic, continuous 
and skilful work ; their social conditions also make it possible 
for them to employ organised labour. At the beginning of 
Chapter IV, the sociology of canoe-building was given in 
outline, and now, after the details of its successive stages have 
been filled in, it is possible to confirm what has been said 
there, and draw some conclusions as to this organisation of 
labour. And first, as we are using this expression so often, 
I must insist again on the fact that the natives are capable 
of it, and that this contention is not a truism, as the following 
considerations should show. The just mentioned view of 
the lazy, individualistic and selfish savage, who lives on the 
bounties of nature as they fall ripe and ready for him, implicitly 
precludes the possibility of his doing effective work, integrated 
into an organised effort by social forces. Again, the view, 
almost universally accepted by specialists, is that the lowest 
savages are in the pre-economic stage of individualistic search 
for food, whereas the more developed ones, such as the 
Trobrianders, for instance, live at the stage of isolated house- 
hold economy. This view also ignores, when it does not deny 
explicitly, the possibility of socially organised labour. 

The view generally held is that, in native communities 
each individual works for himself, or members of a household 
work so as to provide each family with the necessities of life. 
Of course, a canoe, even a masawa, could obviously be made 
by the members of a household, though with less efficiency 


and in a longer time. So that there is a priori nothing to 
foretell whether organised labour, or the unaided efforts of an 
individual or a small group of people should be used in the 
work. As a matter of fact, we have seen in canoe-building a 
number of men engaged in performing each a definite and 
difficult task, though united to one purpose. The tasks were 
differentiated in their sociological setting ; some of the^workers 
were actually to own the canoe ; others belonged to a different 
community, and did it only as an act of service to the chief. 
Some worked in order to derive direct benefit from the use of 
the canoe, others were to be paid. We saw also that the work 
of felling, of scooping, of decorating, would in some cases be 
performed by various men, or it might be performed by one 
only. Certainly the minute tasks of lashing, caulking and 
painting, as well as sail-making, were done by communal 
labour as opposed to individual. And all these different tasks 
were directed towards one aim : the providing the chief or 
headman with the title of ownership of a canoe, and his whole 
community with its use. 

It is clear that this differentiation of tasks, co-ordinated 
to a general purpose, requires a well developed social 
apparatus to back it up, and that on the other hand, this 
social mechanism must be associated and permeated with 
economic elements. There must be a chief, regarded as 
representative of a group ; he must have certain formal rights 
and privileges, and a certain amount of authority, and also 
he must dispose of part of the wealth of the community. There 
must also be a man or men with knowledge sufficient to direct 
and co-ordinate the technical operations. All this is obvious. 
But it must be clearly set forth that the real force which binds 
all the people and ties them down in their tasks is obedience 
to custom, to tradition. 

Every man knows what is expected from him, in virtue of 
his position, and he does it, whether it means the obtaining of 
a privilege, the performance of a task, or the acquiescence in 
a status quo. He knows that it always has been thus, and thus 
it is all around him, and thus it always must remain. The 
chief's authority, his privileges, the customary give and take 
which exist between him and the community, all that is 
merely, so to speak, the mechanism through which the force 
of tradition acts. For there is no organised physical means 


by which those in authority could enforce their will in a case 
like this. Order is kept by direct force of everybody's 
adhesion to custom, rules and laws, by the same psychological 
influences which in our society prevent a man of the world 
doing something which is not " the right thing," The 
expression " might is right " would certainly not apply to 
Trobriand society. " Tradition is right, and what is right 
has might " this rather is the rule governing the social forces 
in Boyowa, and I dare say in almost all native communities 
at this stage of culture. 

All the details of custom, all the magical formulae, the 
whole fringe of ceremonial and rite which accompany canoe- 
building, all these things add weight to the social scheme of 
duties. The importance of magical ideas and rites as 
integrating forces has been indicated at the outset of this 
description. It is easy to see how all the appurtenances of 
ceremony, that is, magic, decoration, and public attendance 
welded together into one whole with labour, serve to put order 
and organisation into it. 

Another point must be enlarged upon somewhat more. I 
have spoken of organised labour, and of communal labour. 
These two conceptions are not synonymous, and it is well to 
keep them apart. As already defined, organised labour 
implies the co-operation of several socially and economi- 
cally different elements. It is quite another thing, however, 
when a number of people are engaged side by side, performing 
the same work, without any technical division of labour, or 
social differentiation of function. Thus, the whole enterprise 
of canoe-building is, in Kiriwina, the result of organised labour. 
But the work of some twenty to thirty men, who side by side 
do the lashing or caulking of the canoe, is communal labour. 
This latter form of work has a great psychological advantage. 
It is much more stimulating and more interesting, and it 
allows of emulation, and therefore of a better quality of work. 
For one or two men, it would require about a month to do the 
work which twenty to thirty men can do in a day. In certain 
cases, as in the pulling of the heavy log from the jungle to the 
village, the joining of forces is almost indispensable. True, 
the canoe could be scooped out in the raybwag, and then a 
few men might be able to pull it along, applying some skill. 
But it would entail great hardships. Thus, in some cases, 


communal labour is of extreme importance, and in all cases 
it furthers the course of work considerably. Sociologically, it 
is important, because it implies mutual help, exchange of 
services, and solidarity in work within a wide range . 

Communal labour is an important factor in the tribal 
economy of the Trobriand natives. They resort to it in the 
building of living-huts and storehouses, in certain ^forms of 
industrial work, and in the transport of things, especially at 
harvest time, when great quantities of produce have to be 
shifted from one village to another, often over a great distance. 
In fishing, when several canoes go out together and fish each 
for itself, then we cannot speak of communal labour. When 
on the other hand, they fish in one band, each canoe having 
an appointed task, as is sometimes done, then we have to do 
with organised labour. Communal labour is also based upon 
the duties of urigubu, or relatives-in-law. That is, a man's 
relatives-in-law have to assist him, whenever he needs their 
co-operation. In the case of a chief, there is an assistance on 
a grand scale, and whole villages will turn out. In the case 
of a commoner, only a few people will help. There is always 
a distribution of food after the work has been done, but this 
can hardly be considered as payment, for is is not proportional 
to the work each individual does. 

By far the most important part communal labour has to 
play, is in gardening. There are as many as five different 
forms of communal labour in the gardens, each called by a 
different name, and each distinct in its sociological nature. 
When a chief or headman summons the members of a village 
community, and they agree to do their gardens communally, 
it is called tamgogula. When this is decided upon, and the 
time grows near for cutting the scrub for new gardens, a festive 
eating is. held on the central place, and there all men go, and 
takayva (cut down) the scrub on the chief's plot. After that, 
they cut in turn the garden plots of everyone, all men working 
on the one plot during a day, and getting on that day food 
from the owner. This procedure is reproduced at each 
successive stage of gardening ; at the fencing, planting of 
yams, bringing in supports, and finally, at the weeding, which 
is done by women. At certain stages, the gardening is often 
done by each one working for himself, namely at the clearing of 
the gardens after they are burnt, at the cleaning of the roots 


of yams when they begin to produce tubers, and at 

There are, as a rule, several communal feasts during the 
progress, and one at the end of a tamgogula period. Gardens 
are generally worked in this fashion, in years when big 
ceremonial dancing or some other tribal festivity is held. This 
usually makes the work very late, and it has then to be done 
quickly and energetically, and communal labour has evidently 
been found suitable for this purpose. 

When several villages agree to work their gardens by 
communal labour, this is called lubalabisa. The two forms do 
not differ very much except by name, and also by the fact 
that, in the latter form, more than one chief or headman has 
to direct the process. The lubalabisa would only be held when 
there are several small villages, clustered together, as is the 
case in the village compounds of Sinaketa, Kavataria, Kabwaku 
or Yalaka. 

When a chief or headman, or man of wealth and influence 
summons his dependents or his relatives-in-law to work for 
him, the name kabutu is given to the proceedings. The owner 
has to give food to all those co-operating. A kabutu may be 
instituted for one bit of gardening, for example, a headman 
may invite his villagers to do his cutting for him, or his planting 
or his fencing. It is clear that whenever communal labour 
is required by one man in the construction of his house or yam 
store, the labour is of the kabutu type, and it is thus called by 
the natives. 

The fourth form of communal labour is called ta'ula, and 
takes place whenever a number of villagers agree to do one 
stage of gardening in common, on the basis of reciprocity. 
No great or special payments take place. The same sort of 
communal labour extending over all stages of gardening, is 
called kari'ula, and it may be counted as the fifth form of 
communal labour in the gardens. Finally, a special word, 
tavile'i, is used when they wish to say that the gardens are 
done by individual labour, and that everyone works on his 
own plot. It is a rule, however, that the chief's plots, 
especially those of an influential chief of high rank, are always 
gardened by communal labour, and this latter is also used with 
regard to certain privileged plots, on which, in a given year, the 
garden magic is performed first, and with the greatest display* 


Thus there is a number of distinct forms of communal 
labour, and they show many more interesting features which 
cannot be mentioned in this short outline. The communal 
labour used in canoe-building is obviously of the kabutu type. 
In having a canoe made, the chief is able to summon big 
numbers of the inhabitants of a whole district, the headman of 
an important village receives the assistance of his whole com- 
munity, whereas a man of small importance, such as one of the 
smaller headmen of Sinaketa or Vakuta, would have to rely on 
his fellow villagers and relations-in-law. In all these cases, 
it would be the call of duty, laid down by custom, which would 
make them work. The payment would be of secondary 
importance, though in certain circumstances, it would be a 
considerable one. The distribution of food during launching 
forms such a payment, as we have seen in Division I of this 
chapter. In olden days, a meal of pigs, an abundance of 
betel-nut and coco-nut and sugar cane would have made a 
veritable feast for the natives. 

Another point of importance from the economic aspect is 
the payment given by the chief to the builder of the canoe. 
The canoe of Omarakana was made, as we saw, for To'uluwa 
by a specialist from Kitava, who was well paid with a quantity 
of food, pigs and vaygua (native valuables). Nowadays, when 
the power of the chiefs is broken, when they have much less 
wealth than formerly to back up their position, and cannot 
use even the little force they ever did and when the general 
breaking up of custom has undermined the traditional defer- 
ence and loyalty of their subjects, the production of canoes and 
other forms of wealth by the specialist for the chief is only a 
vestige of what it once was. In olden days it was, economi- 
cally, one of the most important features of the Trobriand 
tribal life. In the construction of the canoe, which a chief in 
olden days would never build himself, we meet with an example 
of this. 

Here it will be enough to say that whenever a canoe is built 
for a chief or headman by a builder, this has to be paid for 
by an initial gift of food. Then, as long as the man is at work, 
provisional gifts of food are given him. If he lives away from 
home, like the Kitavan builder on the beach of Omarakana, 
he is fed by the toliwaga and supplied with dainties such as 
coco-nut, betel-nut, pigs' flesh, fish and fruits. When he works 


in his own home, the toliwaga will bring him choice food at 
frequent intervals, inspecting, as he does so, the progress of 
the work. This feeding of the worker or bringing him extra 
choice food is called vakapula. After the canoe is finished, a 
substantial gift is given to the master-builder during the 
ceremonial distribution of food. The proper amount would be 
a few hundred basketfuls of yams, a pig or two, bunches of 
betel-nut, and a great number of coco-nuts ; also, a large stone 
blade or a pig, or a belt of red shell discs, and some smaller 
vaygua of the non-Kula type. 

In Vakuta, where chieftainship is not very distinct, and the 
difference in wealth less great, a toliwaga also has to feed the 
workers during the time of hollowing out, preparing, and 
building a canoe. Then, after the caulking, some fifty baskets- 
ful are given to the builder. After the launching and trial 
run, this builder gives a rope, symbol of the canoe, to his wife, 
who, blowing the conch shell, presents the rope to the toliwaga. 
He, on the spot, gives her a bunch of betel or bananas. Next 
day, a considerable present of food, known as yomelu, is given 
by the chief, and then at the next harvest, another fifty or 
sixty basketfuls of yams as karibudaboda or closing up gift. 

I have chosen the data from two concrete cases, one noted 
in Kiriwina, the other in Vakuta that is, in the district where 
the chief's power is greatest, and in that where there never 
has been more than a rudimentary distance in rank and wealth 
between chief and commoner. In both cases there is a pay- 
ment, but in Kiriwina the payment is greater. In Vakuta, 
it is obviously rather an exchange of services, whereas in 
Kiriwina the chief maintains, as well as rewards his builder. 
In both cases we have the exchange of skilled services against 
maintenance by supply of food. 


We shall pass now to the next ceremonial and customary 
performance in the succession of Kula events, to the display 
of a new canoe to the friends and relatives of the toliwaga. 
This custom is called kabigidoya. The tasasoria (launching 
and trial run) is obviously at the same time the last act of ship- 
building, and by its associated magical rite, by the foretaste of 
sailing, it is also one of the beginning stages of the Kula. 
The kabigidoya being a presentation of the new canoe, belongs 


to the series of building ceremonials ; but in so far as it is a 
provisioning trip, it belongs to the Kula. 

The canoe is manned with the usual crew, it is rigged and 
fitted out with all its paraphernalia, such as paddles, baler, and 
conch shell, and it sets out on a short trip to the beaches of the 
neighbouring villages. When the canoe belongs to a compound 
settlement like Sinaketa, then it will stop at every bea^ch of the 
sister villages. The conch shell is blown, and people in the 
village will know " The kabigidoya men have arrived." The 
crew remains in the canoe, the tohwaga goes ashore, taking one 
paddle with him. He goes to the house of his fellow-headman, 
and thrusts the paddle into the frame of the house, with the 
words : "I offer thee thy bisila (pandanus streamer) ; take a 
vaygua (valuable), catch a pig and break the head of my new 
canoe." To which the local headman will answer giving a 
present : " This is the katuvisala dabala (the breaking of the 
head) of thy new canoe ! " This is an example of the quaint, 
customary wording used in the exchange of gifts, and in other 
ceremonial transactions. The bisila (pandanus streamer) is 
often used as a symbol for the canoe, in magical spells, in 
customary expressions, and in idiomatic terms of speech. 
Bleached pandanus streamers are tied to the mast, rigging 
and sail ; a specially medicated strip is often attached to the 
prow of the canoe to give it speed, and there is also other 
bisila magic to make a district partner inclined for Kula. 

The gifts given are not always up to the standard of those 
mentioned in the above customary phrase. The kabigidoya, 
especially from the neighbouring villages, often brings only a 
few mats, a few dozen coco-nuts, some betel-nut, a couple of 
paddles, and such articles of minor value. And even in these 
trifles there is not much gain from the short kabigidoya. For as 
we know, at the beginning of the Kula all the canoe^of, say, 
Sinaketa or KiriwJna are either rebuilt or renewed. What 
therefore one canoe receives on its kabigidoya round, from all 
the others, will have to be more or less returned to them, when 
they in their turn kabigidoya one after the other. Soon 
afterwards, however, on an appointed day, all the canoes sail 
together on a visit to the other districts, and on this kabigi- 
doya, they receive as a rule much more substantial presents, 
and these they will only have to return much later, after a year or 
two, when the visited district will come back to them on their 


own kabigidoya. Thus, when the canoes of Kirwina are built 
and renovated for a big Kula expedition, they will sail South 
along the coast, and stop first in Olivilevi, receiving presents 
from the chief there, and walking on a round of the inland 
villages of Luba. Then they will proceed to the^next sea 
village, that of Wawela, leaving their canoes there, and going 
from there across to Sinaketa. Thence they proceed still 
further South, to Vakuta. The villages on the Lagoon, such as 
Sinaketa and Vakuta, will return these visits, sailing North 
along the Western shore on the Lagoon side. Then they stop at 
Tukwaukwa or Kavataria, and from there walk inland to 
Kiriwina, where they receive presents (see Map IV, p. 50). 

The kabigidoya trips of the Vakutans and Sinaketans are 
more important than those of the Northern or Eastern districts, 
because they are combined with a preliminary trade, in which 
the visitors replenish their stock of goods, which they will 
need presently on their trip South to Dobu. The reader will 
remember that Kuboma is the industrial district of the 
Trobriands, where are manufactured most of the useful 
articles, for which these islands are renowned in the whole of 
Eastern New Guinea. It lies in the Northern half of the 
island, and from Kiriwina it is only a few miles walk, but to 
reach it from Sinaketa or Vakuta it is necessary to sail North. 
The Southern villages therefore go to Kavataria, and from there 
walk inland to Bwoytalu, Luya, Yalaka and Kadukwaykela, 
where they make their purchases. The inhabitants of these 
villages also when they hear that the Sinaketans are anchored 
in Kavataria, bring their wares to the canoes. 

A brisk trade is carried on during the day or two that the 
Sinaketans remain in Kavataria. The natives of Kuboma 
are always eager to buy yams, as they live in an unfertile 
district, and devote themselves more to industrial productions 
than to gardening. And they are still more eager to acquire 
coco-nuts and betel-nut, of which they have a great scarcity. 
They desire besides to receive in exchange for their produce 
the red shell discs manufactured in Sinaketa and Vakuta, and 
the turtle-shell rings. For objects of great value, the Sinake- 
tans would give the big clay pots which they receive directly 
from the Amphletts. For that they obtain different articles 
according to the villages with which they are exchanging. 
From Bwoytalu, they get the wonderfully fashioned and 


decorated wooden dishes of various sizes, depths and finish, 
made out of either hard or soft wood ; from Bwaytelu, 
Wabutuma and Buduwaylaka, armlets of plaited fern fibre, 
and wooden combs ; from Buduwaylaka, Yalaka, and Kaduk- 
waykela, lime pots of different qualities and sizes. From the 
villages of Tilataula, the district North-east of Kuboma, the 
polished axe blades used to be acquired in olden days.. 

I shall not enter into the technicalities of this exchange, nor 
shall I give here the approximate list of prices which obtain. 
We shall have to follow the traded goods further on to Dobu, 
and there we shall see how they change hands again, and under 
what conditions. This will allow us to compare the prices 
and thus to gauge the nature of the transaction as a whole. 
It will be better therefore to defer all details till then. 


Here, however, its seems necessary to make another 
digression from the straight narrative of the Kula, and give 
an outline of the various forms of trade and exchange as we 
find them in the Trobriands. Indeed, the main theme of this 
volume is the Kula, a form of exchange, and I would be untrue 
to my chief principle of method, were I to give the description 
of one form of exchange torn out of its most intimate context ; 
that is, were I to give an account of the Kula without giving at 
least a general outline of the forms of Kiriwinian payments 
and gifts and barter. 

In Chapter II, speaking of some features of Trobriand 
tribal life, I was led to criticise the current views of primitive 
economic man. They depict him as a being indolent, inde- 
pendent, happy-go-lucky, yet at the same time governed 
exclusively by strictly rational and utilitarian motives, and 
logical and consistent in his behaviour. In this chapter again, 
in Division II, I pointed out another fallacy implied in this 
conception, a fallacy which declares that a savage is capable 
only of very simple, unorganised and unsystematic forms of 
labour. Another error more or less explicitly expressed in all 
writings on primitive economics, is that the natives possess 
only rudimentary forms of trade and exchange ; that these 
forms play no essential part in the tribal life, are carried on 
only spasmodically and at rare intervals, and as necessity 


Whether we have to deal with the wide-spread fallacy of 
the primitive Golden Age, characterised mainly by the absence 
of any distinction between mine and thine ; or whether we take 
the more sophisticated view, which postulates stages of 
individual search for food, and of isolated household catering ; 
or if we consider for the moment the numerous theories which 
see nothing in primitive economics but simple pursuits for the 
maintenance of existence in none of these can we find reflected 
even a hint of the real state of affairs as found in the Trobriands ; 
namely, that the whole tribal life is permeated by a constant 
give and take ; that every ceremony, every legal and customary 
act is done to the accompaniment of material gift and counter 
gift ; that wealth, given and taken, is one of the main instru- 
ments of social organisation, of the power of the chief, of the 
bonds of kinship, and of relationship in law.* 

These views on primitive trade, prevalent though erroneous, 
appear no doubt quite consistent, that is, if we grant certain 
premises. Now these premises seem plausible, and yet they 
are false, and it will be good to have a careful look at them so 
that we can discard them once and for all. They are based on 
some sort of reasoning, such as the following one : If, in 
tropical conditions, there is a plenty of all utilities, why 
trouble about exchanging them ? Then, why attach any value 
to them ? Is there any reason for striving after wealth, where 
everyone can have as much as he wants without much effort ? 
Is there indeed any room for value, if this latter is the result of 

* I am adducing these views not for any controversial purposes, but to 
justify and make clear why I stress certain general features of Trobriand 
Economic Sociology. My contentions might run the danger of appearing as 
gratuitous truisms if not thus justified. The opinion that primitive humanity 
and savages have no individual property is an old prejudice shared by many 
modern writers, especially in support of communistic theories, and the so- 
called materialistic view of history. The " communism of savages" is a phrase 
very often read, and needs no special quotation. The views of individual 
search for food and household economy are those of Karl Biicher, and ithey 
have directly influenced all the best modern writings on Primitive Economics. 
Finally, the view that we have done with Primitive Economics if we have described 
the way in which the natives procure their food, is obviously a fundamental 
premise of all the naive, evolutionary theories which construct the successive 
stages of economic development. This view is summarised in the following 
sentence : " . . . . In many simple communities, the actual food quest, 
and operations immediately arising from it, occupy by far the greater part 
of the people's time and energy, leaving little opportunity for the satisfaction 
of any lesser needs." This sentence, quoted out of " Notes and Queries on 
Anthropology," p. 160, article on the " Economics of the Social Group," 
represents what may be called the official view of contemporary Ethnology 
on the subject, and in perusing the rest of the article, it can be easily seen 
that all the manifold economic problems, with which we are dealing in this 
book, have been so far more or less neglected. 


scarcity as well as utility, in a community, in which all the 
useful things are plentiful ? On the other hand, in those savage 
communities where the necessities of life are scarce, there is 
obviously no possibility of accumulating them, and thus 
creating wealth. 

Again, since, in savage communities, whether bountifully 
or badly provided for by nature, everyone has the same free 
access to all the necessities, is there any need to exchange them ? 
Why give a basketful of fruit or vegetables, if everybody has 
practically the same quantity and the same means of pro- 
curing it ? Why make a present of it, if it cannot be returned 
except in the same form ?* 

There are two main sources of error at the bottom of this 
faulty reasoning. The first is that the relation of the savage 
to material goods is a purely rational one, and that conse- 
quently, in his conditions, there is no room for wealth or value. 
The second erroneous assumption is that there can be no need 
for exchange if anyone and everyone can, by industry and 
skill, produce all that represents value through its quantity or 
its quality. 

As regards the first proposition, it is not true either with 
regard to what may be called primary wealth, that is, food 
stuffs, nor with regard to articles of luxury, which are by no 
means absent in Trobriand society. First as to food-stuffs, 
they are not merely regarded by the natives as nourishment, 
not merely valued because of their utility. They accumulate 
them not so much because they know that yams can be stored 
and used for a future date, but also because they like to display 
their possessions in food. Their yam houses are built so that the 
quantity of the food can be gauged, and its quality ascertained 
through the wide interstices between the beams (see Plates 
XXXII and XXXIII). The yams are so arranged that the 
best specimens come to the outside and are well visible. Special 

* These views had to be adduced at length, although touched upon 
already in Chapter II, Division IV, because they imply a serious error with 
regard to human nature in one of its most fundamental aspects. We can show 
up their fallacy on one example only, that of the Trobriand Society, but even 
this is enough to shatter their universal validity and show that the problem 
must be re-stated. The criticised views contain very general propositions, 
which, however, can be answered only empirically. And it is the duty of the 
field Ethnographer to answer and correct them. Because a statement is very 
general, it can none the less be a statement of empirical fact. General views 
must not be mixed up with hypothetical ones. The latter must be banished 
from field work ; the former cannot receive too much attention. 


varieties of yams, which grow up to two metres length, and 
weigh as much as several kilograms each, are framed in wood 
and decorated with paint, and hung on the outside of the yam 
houses. That the right to display food is highly valued can 
be seen from the fact that in villages where a chief of high rank 
resides, the commoners' storehouses have to be closed up with 
coco-nut leaves, so as not to compete with his. 

All this shows that the accumulation of food is not only the 
result of economic foresight, but also prompted by the desire 
of display and enhancement of social prestige through posses- 
sion of wealth. 

When I speak about ideas underlying accumulation of 
food stuffs in the Trobriands, I refer to the present, actual 
psychology of the natives, and I must emphatically declare 
that I am not offering here any conjectures about the " origins " 
or about the " history " of the customs and their psychology, 
leaving this to theoretical and comparative research. 

Another institution which illuminates the native ideas 
about food storage is the magic called vilamalya, performed 
over the crops after harvest, and at one or two other stages. 
This magic is intended to make the food last long. Before 
the store-house is filled with yams, the magician places a 
special kind of heavy stone on the floor, and recites a long 
magical spell. On the evening of the same day, after the food 
houses have been filled, he spits over them with medicated 
ginger root, and he also performs a rite over all the roads 
entering into the village, and over the central place. All this 
will make food plentiful in that village, and will make the 
supplies last long. But, and this is the important point for 
us, this magic is conceived to act, not on the food, but on the 
inhabitants of the village. It makes their appetites poor, 
it makes them, as the natives put it, inclined to eat wild fruit 
of the bush, the mango and bread fruit of the village grove, and 
refuse to eat yams, or at least be satisfied with very little. 
They will boast that when this magic is performed well, half of 
the yams will rot away in the storehouses, and be thrown on 
the wawa t the rubbish heap at the back of the houses, to make 
room for the new harvest. Here again we meet the typical 
idea that the main aim of accumulating food is to keep it 
exhibited in the yam houses till it rots, and then can be 
replaced by a new etalage. 


The filling of the storehouses involves a double display of 
food, and a good deal of ceremonial handling. When the tubers 
are taken out of the ground they are first displayed in the 
gardens. A shed of poles is erected, and covered with taitu 
vine, which is thrown thickly over it. In such arbours, a 
circle is pegged out on the ground, and within this the taitu 
(the ordinary small yams of the Trobriands which -form the 
staple harvest) are carefully piled up into a conical heap. A 
great deal of care is lavished on this task, the biggest are 
selected, scrupulously cleaned, and put on the outside of the 
heap. After a fortnight or more of keeping the yams in the 
garden, where they are much admired by visiting parties, the 
owner of the garden plot summons a party of friends or 
relatives-in-law, and these transport them into a village. As 
we know already, from Chapter II, such yams will be offered 
to the owner's sister's tyusband. It is to his village that they 
are brought, where again they are displayed in conical heaps, 
placed before his yam house. Only after they have thus 
remained for several days sometimes up to a fortnight are 
they put into the storehouse (see Plate XXXIII). 

Indeed, it would be enough for anyone to see how the 
natives handle the yams, how they admire big tubers, how 
they pick out freaks and sports and exhibit them, to realise 
that there is a deep, socially standardised sentiment centring 
round this staple product of their gardens. In many phases 
of their ceremonial life, big displays of food form the central 
feature. Extensive mortuary distributions called sagali, are, 
in one of their aspects, enormous exhibitions of food, con- 
nected with their re-apportionment (see Plate XXXIV). At 
harvest of the early yams (kuvi) there is an offering of first 
fruits to the memory of the recently dead. At the later, main 
harvest of taitu (small yams), the first tubers are dug out 
ceremonially brought into the village and admired by the whole 
community. Food contests between two villages at harvest, 
in olden days often followed by actual fighting, are also one of 
the characteristic features which throw light on the natives' 
attitude towards edible wealth. In fact, one could almost 
speak of a " cult of food " among these natives, in so far as food 
is the central object of most of their public ceremonies. 

In the preparation of food, it must be noted that many taboos 
are associated with cooking, and especially with the cooking 


All food to be given away is several times displayed before, during, and after the ceremony. 
~ "" ' ' ' irge, prismatic receptacles (pwata'i) is one of the typical features of 

Exhibiting the food in large. 

Trobriand custom. (See Di 1 


Large claypots, imported from the Amphlctts, are used for the purpose ; in these, coconut oil 
is brought to a boil, pieces of pounded taro being thrown in afterwards, while a man stirs the 
contents with a long, decorated, wooden ladle 



The inland party have brought their yams by boat to the village of Oburaku, which is practically 

inaccessible by land. They are putting up the vegetables into square, wooden crates in order 

to carry them ceremonially and to place each before the partner's house. (Div. VI.) 



In the picture, the inland natives exchange bundles of taro directly for fish, without observing 
the rites and ceremonies obligatory in a wasi. (See Div. VI.) 


pots. The wooden dishes on which the natives serve their 
food are called kabotna, which means " tabooed wood/' The 
act of eating is as a rule strictly individual. People eat within 
their family circles, and even when there is public ceremonial 
cooking of the taro pudding (mono) in the big clay pots, 
especially tabooed for this purpose (see Plate XXXV), they do 
not eat in one body, but in small groups. A clay pot is carried 
into the different parts of the village, and men from that part 
squat round it and ejit, followed afterwards by the women. 
Sometimes again the pudding is taken out, placed on wooden 
dishes, and eaten within the family. 

I cannot enter here into the many details of what could be 
called the social psychology of eating, but it is important to 
note that the centre of gravity of the feast lies, not in the eating, 
but in the display and ceremonial preparation of the food (see 
Plate XXXV). When a pig is to be killed, which is a great 
culinary and festive event, it will be first carried about, and 
shown perhaps in one or two villages ; then roasted alive, 
the whole village and neighbours enjoying the spectacle and the 
squeals of the animal. It is then ceremonially, and with a 
definite ritual, cut into pieces and distributed. But the 
eating of it is a casual affair ; it will take place either within a 
hut, or else people will just cook a piece of flesh and eat it on 
the road, or walking about in the village. The relics of a feast 
such as pigs' jaws and fish tails, however, are often collected 
and displayed in houses or yam stores.* 

The quantity of food eaten, whether in prospect or retro- 
spect, is what matters most. " We shall eat, and eat till we 
vomit," is a stock phrase, often heard at feasts, intended to 
express enjoyment of the occasion, a close parallel to the 
pleasure felt at the idea of stores rotting away in the yam 
house. All this shows that the social act of eating and the 
associated conviviality are not present in the minds or customs 
of the Trobrianders, and what is socially enjoyed is the common 
admiration of fine and plentiful food, and the knowledge of its 
abundance. Naturally, like all animals, human or otherwise, 
civilised or savage, the Trobrianders enjoy their eating as one 
of the chief pleasures of life, but this remains an individual 

* As a matter of fact, this custom is not so prominent in the Trobnands 
as in other Massim districts and all over the Papuo-Melanesian world, cf. for 
instance Seligman, op. cit. t p. 56 and Plate VI, Fig. 6. 


act, and neither its performance nor the sentiments attached 
to it have been socialised. 

It is this indirect sentiment, rooted of course in reality in 
the pleasures of eating, which makes for the value of food in 
the eyes of the natives. This value again makes accumulated 
food a symbol, and a vehicle of power. Hence the need for 
storing and displaying it. Value is not the result of ^utility and 
rarity, intellectually compounded, but is the result of a senti- 
ment grown round things, which, throygh satisfying human 
needs, are capable of evoking emotions. 

The value of manufactured objects of use must also be 
explained through man's emotional nature, and not by 
reference to his logical construction of utilitarian views. 
Here, however, I think that the explanation must take into 
account, not so much the user of these objects, as the workman 
who produces them. These natives are industrious, and keen 
workers. They do not work under the spur of necessity, or to 
gain their living, but on the impulse of talent and fancy, with 
a high sense and enjoyment of their art, which they often 
conceive as the result of magical inspiration. This refers 
especially to those who produce objects of high value, and who 
are always good craftsmen and are fond of their workmanship. 
Now these native artists have a keen appreciation of good 
material, and of perfection in craft. When they find a 
specially good piece of material it lures them on to lavish 
on it an excess of labour, and to produce things too 
good to be used, but only so much the more desirable for 

The careful manner of working, the perfection of craft- 
manship, the discrimination in material, the inexhaustible 
patience in giving the final touches, have been often noted 
by those who have seen natives at work. These observations 
have also come under the notice of some theoretical economists, 
but it is necessary to see these facts in their bearing upon the 
theory of value. That is, namely, that this loving attitude 
towards material and work must produce a sentiment of attach- 
ment to rare materials and well-worked objects, and that this 
must result in their being valued. Value will be attached to 
rare forms of such materials as the craftsman generally uses : 
classes of shell which are scarce, lending themselves especially 
to fashioning and polishing ; kinds of wood which are also 


rare, like ebony ; and more particularly, special varieties of 
that stone out of which implements are made.* 

We can now compare our results with the fallacious views 
on Primitive Economic Man, sketched out at the beginning of 
this Division. We see that value and wealth exist, in spite of 
abundance of things, that indeed this abundance is valued for 
its own sake. Great quantities are produced beyond any 
possible utility they could possess, out of mere love of accumu- 
lation for its own sake ; food is allowed to rot, and though 
they have all they could desire in necessities, yet the natives 
want always more, to serve in its character of wealth. Again, 
in manufactured objects, and more especially in objects of the 
vaygu'a type (comp. Chapter III, Div. Ill), it is not rarity 
within utility which creates value, but a rarity sought out by 
human skill within the workable materials. In other words, 
not those things are valued, which being useful or even indis- 
pensable are hard to get, since all the necessities of life are within 
easy reach of the Trobriand Islander. But such an article is 
valued where the workman, having found specially fine or 
sportive material, has been induced to spend a disproportionate 
amount of labour on it. By doing so, he creates an object 
\vhich is a kind of economic monstrosity, too good, too big, 
too frail, or too overcharged with ornament to be used, yet just 
because of that, highly valued. 


Thus the first assumption is exploded, " that there is no 
room for wealth or value in native societies." What about 
the other assumption, namely, " That there is no need to 
exchange if anyone can by industry and skill, produce all that 
represents value through its quantity or its quality ? " This 
assumption is confuted by realising a fundamental fact of 
native usage and psychology : the love of give and take for its 
own sake ; the active enjoyment in possession of wealth, 
through handing it over. 

In studying any sociological questions in the Trobriands, in 
describing the ceremonial side of tribal life, or religion and 
magic, we constantly meet with this give and take, with 

* Again, in explaining value, I do not wish to trace its possible origins, 
but I try simply to show what are the actual and observable elements into which 
the natives' attitude towards the object valued can be analysed. 


exchange of gifts and payments. I had occasion several times 
to mention this general feature, and in the short outline of the 
Trobriand sociology in Chapter II, I gave some examples of 
it. Even a walk across the island, such as we imagined in that 
chapter, would reveal to an open-eyed Ethnographer this 
economic truth. He would see visiting parties women carry- 
ing big food baskets on their head, men with loads on their 
shoulders and on inquiring he would learn that these were 
gifts to be presented under one of the many names they bear, in 
fulfilment of some social obligation. Offerings of first fruits 
are given to the chief or to relatives-in-law, when the mango or 
bread fruit or sugar cane are ripe. Big quantities of sugar cane 
being borne to a chief, carried by some twenty to thirty men 
running along the road, produce the impressions of a tropical 
Birnam Wood moving through the jungle. At harvest time all 
the roads are full of big parties of men carrying food, or 
returning with empty baskets. From the far North of Kiriwina 
a party will have to run for some twelve miles to the creek 
of Tukwa'ukwa, get into canoes, punt for miles along the 
shallow Lagoon, and have another good walk inland from 
Sinaketa ; and all this is in order to fill the yam house of a man 
who could do it quite well for himself, if it were not that he is 
under obligation to give all the harvest to his sister's husband ! 
Displays of gifts associated with marriage, with sagali (food 
distributions), with payments for magic, all these are some 
of the most picturesque characteristics of the Trobriand 
garden, road and village, and must impress themselves upon 
even a superficial observer. 

The second fallacy, that man keeps all he needs and never 
spontaneously gives it away, must therefore be completely 
discarded. Not that the natives do not possess a strongly 
retentive tendency. To imagine that they differ from 
other human beings in this, would be to fall out of one fallacy 
into the opposite one also already mentioned, namely that 
there is a sort of primitive communism among the natives. 
On the contrary, just because they think so much of giving, 
the distinction between mine and thine is not obliterated but 
enhanced ; for the presents are by no means given hap- 
hazardly, but practically always in fulfilment of definite obliga- 
tions, and with a great deal of formal punctilio. The very 
fundamental motive of giving, the vanity of a display of 


possession and power, a limine rules out any assumption of 
communistic tendencies or institutions. Not in all cases, but 
in many of them, the handing over of wealth is the expression 
of the superiority of the giver over the recipient. In others, 
it represents subordination to a chief, or a kinship relation or 
relationship-in-law. And it is important to realise that in 
almost all forms of exchange in the Trobriands, there is not 
even a trace of gain, nor is there any reason for looking at it 
from the purely utilitarian and economic standpoint, since 
there is no enhancement of mutual utility through the exchange. 

Thus, it is quite a usual thing in the Trobriands for a type of 
transaction to take place in which A gives twenty baskets 
of yams to B, receiving for it a small polished blade, only to 
have the whole transaction reversed in a few weeks' time. 
Again, at a certain stage of mortuary ritual, a present of 
valuables is given, and on the same day later on, the identical 
articles are returned to the giver. Cases like that described 
in the kabigidoya custom (Div. Ill of this chapter), where each 
owner of a new canoe made a round of all the others, each thus 
giving away again what he receives, are typical. In the wast 
exchange of fish for yams, to be described presently through 
a practically useless gift, a burdensome obligation is imposed, 
and one might speak of an increase of burdens rather than an 
increase of utilities. 

The view that the native can live in a state of individual 
search for food, or catering for his own household only, in 
isolation from any interchange of goods, implies a calculating, 
cold egotism, the possibility of enjoyment by man of utilities 
for their sake. This view, and all the previously criticised 
assumptions, ignore the fundamental human impulse to display, 
to share, to bestow. They ignore the deep tendency to create 
social ties through exchange of gifts. Apart from any consider- 
ation as to whether the gifts are necessary or even useful, giving 
for the sake of giving is one of the most important features of 
Trobriand sociology, and, from its very general and funda- 
mental nature, I submit that it is a universal feature of all 
primitive societies. 

I have dwelt at length on economic facts which on the 
surface are not directly connected with the Kula. But if we 
realise that in these facts we may be able to read the native's 
attitude towards wealth and value, their importance for the 


main theme becomes obvious. The Kula is the highest and the 
most dramatic expression of the native's conception of value/ 
and if we want to understand all the customs and actions of the 
Kula in their real bearings we must, first and foremost, grasp 
the psychology that lies at its basis. 


I have on purpose spoken of forms of exchange, of gifts 
and counter-gifts, rather than of barter or trade, because, 
although there exist forms of barter pure and simple, there 
are so many transitions and gradations between that and 
simple gift, that it is impossible to draw any fixed line between 
trade on the one hand, and exchange of gifts on the other. 
Indeed, the drawing of any lines to suit our own terminology 
and our own distinctions is contrary to sound method. In 
order to deal with these facts correctly it is necessary 
to give a complete survey of all forms of payment or 
present. In this survey there will be at one end the extreme 
case of pure gift, that is an offering for which nothing is given 
in return. Then, through many customary forms of gift or 
payment, partially or conditionally returned, which shade into 
each other, there come forms of exchange, where more or less 
strict equivalence is observed, arriving finally at real barter. 
In the following survey I shall roughly classify each trans- 
action according to the principle of its equivalence. 

Such tabularised accounts cannot give the same clear 
vision of facts as a concrete description might do, and they even 
produce the impression of artificiality, but, and this must be 
emphatically stated, I shall not introduce here artificial 
categories, foreign to the native mind. Nothing is so mis- 
leading in ethnographic accounts as the description of facts of 
native civilisations in terms of our own. This, however, shall 
not be done here. The principles of arrangement, although 
quite beyond the comprehension of the natives, are never- 
theless contained in their social organisation, customs, and 
even in their linguistic terminology. This latter always affords 
the simplest and surest means of approach towards the under- 
standing of native distinctions and classifications. But it also 
must be remembered that, though important as a clue to 
native ideas, the knowledge of terminology is not a miraculous 
short-cut into the native's mind. As a matter of fact, there 


exist many salient and extremely important features of 
Trobriand sociology and social psychology, which are not 
covered by any term, whereas their language distinguishes 
sub-divisions and subtleties which are quite irrelevant with 
regard to actual conditions. Thus, a survey of terminology 
must always be supplemented by a direct analysis of ethno- 
graphic fact and inquiry into the native's ideas, that is, by 
collecting a body of opinions, typical expressions, and 
customary phrases by direct cross-questioning. The most 
conclusive and deepest insight, however, must always be 
obtained by a study of behaviour, by analysis of ethnographic 
custom and concrete cases of traditional rules. 


i. Pure Gifts. By this, as just mentioned, we understand 
an act, in which an individual gives an object or renders a 
service without expecting or getting any return. This is not 
a type of transaction very frequently met in Trobriand tribal 
life. It must be remembered that accidental or spontaneous 
gifts, such as alms or charities, do not exist, since everybody 
in need would be maintained by his or her family. Again, 
there are so many well-defined economic obligations, con- 
nected with kinship and relationship-in-law, that anyone 
wanting a thing or a service would know where to go and ask 
for it. And then, of course, it would not be a free gift, but one 
imposed by some social obligation. Moreover, since gifts in the 
Trobriands are conceived as definite acts with a social meaning, 
rather than transmissions of objects, it results that where 
social duties do not directly impose them, gifts are very rare. 

The most important type of free gift are the presents 
characteristic of relations between husband and wife, and 
parents and children. Among the Trobrianders, husband and 
wife own their things separately. There are man's and 
woman's possessions, and each of the two partners has a special 
part of the household goods under control. When one of them 
dies, his or her relations inherit the things. But though the 
possessions are not joint, they very often give presents to one 
another, more especially a husband to his wife. 

As to the parents' gifts to the children, it is clear that in a 
matrilineal society, where the mother is the nearest of km to 


her children in a sense quite different to that in our society, 
they share in and inherit from her all her possessions. It is 
more remarkable that the father, who, according to native 
belief and law, is only the mother's husband, and not the kins- 
man of the children, is the only relation from whom free gifts 
are expected.* The father will give freely of his valuables to a 
son, and he will transmit to him his relationships ii> the Kula, 
according to the definite rules by which it is done (see Chapter 
XI, Division II). Also, one of the most valuable and valued 
possessions, the knowledge of magic, is handed over willingly, 
and free of any counter-gift, from father to son. The owner- 
ship of trees in the village grove and ownership in garden plots 
is ceded by the father to his son during the lifetime of the 
former. At his death, it often has to be returned to the man's 
rightful heirs, that is, his sister's children. All the objects of 
use embraced by the term gugua will be shared with him as a 
matter of course by a man's children. Also, any special 
luxuries in food, or such things as betel-nut or tobacco, he will 
share with his children as well as with his wife. In all such 
small articles of indulgence, free distribution will also obtain 
between the chief or the headman and his vassals, though not 
in such a generous spirit, as within the family. In fact, every- 
one who possesses betel-nut or tobacco in excess of what he can 
actually consume on the spot, would be expected to give it 
away. This very special rule, which also happens to apply to 
such articles as are generally used by white men for trade, has 
largely contributed to the tenacity of the idea of the com- 
munistic native. In fact, many a man will carefully conceal 
any surplus so as to avoid the obligation of sharing it and yet 
escape the opprobrium attaching to meanness. 

There is no comprehensive name for this class of free gifts 
in native terminology. The verb " to give " (sayki) would 
simply be used, and on inquiry as to whether there was repay- 
ment for such a gift, the natives would directly answer that 
this was a gift without repayment ; mapula being the general 
term for return gifts, and retributions, economic as well as 
otherwise. The natives undoubtedly would not think of free 
gifts as forming one class, as being all of the same nature. 
The acts of liberality on the part of the chief, the sharing of 

* These natives have no idea of physiological fatherhood. See Chapter 
II, Division VI. 


tobacco and betel-nut by anybody who has some to spare, 
would be taken as a matter of course. Gifts by a husband 
to a wife are considered also as rooted in the nature of this 
relationship. They have as a matter of fact a very coarse and 
direct way of formulating that such gifts are the mapula 
(payment) for matrimonial relations, a conception in harmony 
with the ideas underlying another type of gift, of which I 
shall speak presently, that given in return for sexual intercourse. 
Economically the two are entirely different, since those of 
husband to wife are casual gifts within a permanent relation- 
ship, whereas the others are definite payment for favours given 
on special occasions. 

The most remarkable fact, however, is that the same 
explanation is given for the free gifts given by the father to his 
children ; that is to say, a gift given by a father to his son is 
said to be a repayment for the man's relationship to the son's 
mother. According to the matrilineal set of ideas about 
kinship, mother and son are one, but the father is a stranger 
(tomakava) to his son, an expression often used when these 
matters are discussed. There is no doubt, however, that the 
state of affairs is much more complex, for there is a very strong 
direct emotional attitude between father and child. The 
father wants always to give things to his child, as I have said, 
(compare Chapter II, Division VI), and this is very well 
realised by the natives themselves. 

As a matter of fact, the psychology underlying these 
conditions is this : normally a man is emotionally attached to 
his wife, and has a very strong personal affection towards his 
children, and expresses these feelings by gifts, and more 
especially by trying to endow his children with as much of his 
wealth and position as he can. This, however, runs counter to 
the matrilineal principle as well as to the general rule that all 
gifts require repayment, and so these gifts are explained away 
by the natives in a manner that agrees with these rules. The 
above crude explanation of the natives by reference to sex 
payment is a document, which in a very illuminating manner 
shows up the conflict between the matrilineal theory and 
the actual sentiments of the natives, and also how necessary 
it is to check the explicit statements of natives, and the views 
contained in their terms and phraseology by direct observation 
of full-blooded life, in which we see man not only laying down 


rules and theories, but behaving under the impulse of instinct 
and emotion. 

2. Customary payments, re-paid irregularly, and without 
strict equivalence. The most important of these are the annual 
payments received at harvest time by a man from his wife's 
brothers (cf. Chapter II, Divisions IV and V). These 
regular and unfailing gifts are so substantial, that they form 
the bulk of a man's income in food. Sociologically, they are 
perhaps the strongest strand in the fabric of the Trobriands 
tribal constitution. They entail a life-long obligation of every 
man 'to work for his kinswomen and their families. When a 
boy begins to garden, he does it for his mother. When his 
sisters grow up and marry, he works for them. If he has neither 
mother nor sisters, his nearest female blood relation will claim 
the proceeds of his labour.* 

The reciprocity in these gifts never amounts to their full 
value, but the recipient is supposed to give a valuable (vaygu'a) 
or a pig to his wife's brother from time to time. Again if he 
summons his wife's kinsmen to do communal work for him, 
according to the kabutu system, he pays them in food. In 
this case also the payments are not the full equivalent of the 
services rendered. Thus we see that the relationship between 
a man and his wife's kinsmen is full of mutual gifts and 
services, in which repayment, however, by the husband, is not 
equivalent and regular, but spasmodic and smaller in value 
than his own share ; and even if for some reason or other it 
ever fails, this does not relieve the others from their obligations. 
In the case of a chief, the duties of his numerous relatives-in- 
law have to be much more stringently observed ; that is, they 
have to give him much bigger harvest gifts, and they also have 
to keep pigs, and grow betel and coco-nut palms for him. For 
all this, they are rewarded by correspondingly large presents of 
valuables, which again, however, do not fully repay them for 
their contributions. 

The tributes given by vassal village communities to a chief 
and usually repaid by small counter-gifts, also belong to this 
class. Besides these, there are the contributions given by one 
kinsman to another, when this latter has to carry out a 
mortuary distribution (sagali). Such contributions are some- 

* Compare Plate XXXIII, where the yam houses of a headman arc filled 
by his wife's brothers. 


times, but irregularly and spasmodically, repaid by objects of 
small value. 

The natives do not embrace this class under one term, but 
the word urigubu, which designates harvest gifts from the wife's 
brothers, stands for one of the most important conceptions of 
native sociology and economics. They have quite a clear idea 
about the many characteristics of the urigubu duties, which have 
have been described here, and about their far-reaching 
importance. The occasional counter gifts given by the husband 
to his wife's kinsmen are called youlo. The chief's tributes 
which we have put in this category are called pokala. The 
placing of these two types of payment in one category is 
justified both by the similar mechanism, and by the close 
resemblance between the urigubu gifts, when given to a chief, 
and the pokala received by him. There are even resemblances 
in the actual ceremonial, which however, would require too 
much of a detailed description to be more than mentioned here. 
The word pokala is a general term for the chief's tributes, and 
there are several other expressions which cover gifts of first 
fruit, gifts at the main harvest, and some other sub-divisions. 
There are also terms describing the various counter-gifts 
given by a chief to those who pay him tribute, according 
to whether they consist of pig's flesh or yams or fruit. I 
am not mentioning all these native words, in order not to 
overload the account with details, which would be irrelevant 

3. Payment for services rendered. This class differs from 
the foregoing one in that here the payment is within limits 
defined by custom. It has to be given each time the service 
is performed, but we cannot speak here of direct economic 
equivalence, since one of the terms of the equation consists of a 
service, the value of which cannot be assessed, except by con- 
ventional estimates. All services done by specialists for 
individuals or for the community, belong here. The most im- 
portant of these are undoubtedly the services of the magician. 
The garden magician, for instance, receives definite gifts from 
the community and from certain individuals. The sorcerer 
is paid by the man who asks him to kill or who desires to be 
healed. The presents given for magic of rain and fair weather 
are very considerable. I have already described the payments 
given to a canoe-builder. I shall have to speak later on of 


those received by the specialists who make the various types of 

Here also belong the payments, always associated with 
love intrigues. Disinterested love is quite unknown among 
these people of great sexual laxity. Every time a girl favours 
her lover, some small gift has to be given immediately. This 
is the case in the normal intrigues, going on every" night in the 
village between unmarried girls and boys, and also in more 
ceremonial cases of indulgence, like the katuyausi custom, or 
the mortuary consolations, mentioned in Chapter II, Division 
II. A few areca-nuts, some betel pepper, a bit of tobacco, 
some turtle-shell rings, or spondylus discs, such are the small 
tokens of gratitude and appreciation never omitted by the 
youth. An attractive girl need never go unprovided with the 
small luxuries of life. 

The big mortuary distributions of food, sagali, have already 
been mentioned several times. On their economic side, these 
distributions are payments for funerary services. The deceased 
man's nearest maternal kinsman has to give food gifts to all the 
villagers for their assuming mourning, that is to say, for 
blackening their faces and cutting their hair. He pays some 
other special people for wailing and grave digging ; a still 
smaller group for cutting out the dead man's ulna and using it 
as a lime spoon ; and the widow or widower for the pro- 
longed and scrupulously to be observed period of Strict 

All these details show how universal and strict is the idea 
that every social obligation or duty, though it may not on any 
account be evaded, has yet to be re-paid by a ceremonial gift. 
The function of these ceremonial re-payments is, on the surface 
of it, to thicken the social ties from which arise the obligations. 

The similarity of the gifts and payments which we have put 
into this category is expressed by the native use of the word 
mapula (repayment, equivalent) in connection with all these 
gifts. Thus in giving the reason why a certain present is made 
to a magician, or why a share is allotted to a man at the 
sagali (distribution), or why some valuable object is given to a 
specialist, they would say : " This is the mapula for what he 
has done." Another interesting identification contained in 
linguistic usage is the calling of both magical payments and 
payments to specialists : a ' restorative/ or, literally, a 


' poultice.' Certain extra fees given to a magician are 
described as ' katuwarina kaykela ' or ' poultice for his leg * ; 
as the magician, especially he of the garden or the sorcerer, 
has to take long walks in connection with his magic. The 
expression ' poultice of my back/ will be used by a canoe- 
builder who has been bending over his work, or ' poultice of my 
hand ' by a carver or stone-polisher. But the identity of these 
gifts is not in any way expressed in the detailed terminology. 
In fact, there is a list of words describing the various payments 
for magic, the gifts given to specialists, love payments, and the 
numerous types of gifts distinguished at the sagali. Thus 
a magical payment, of which a small part would be offered to 
ancestral spirits, is called ula'ula ; a substantial magical gift 
is called sousula ; a gift to a sorcerer is described by the verb 
ibudipeta, and there are many more special names. The gifts 
to the specialists are called vewoulo the initial gift ; yomelu 
a gift of food given after the object has been ceremonially 
handed over to the owner ; karibudaboda a substantial gift of 
yams given at the next harvest. The gifts of food, made while 
the work is in progress are called vakapula ; but this latter 
term has much wider application, as it covers all the presents 
of cooked or raw food given to workers by the man, for whom 
they work. The sexual gifts are called buwana or sebuwana. 
I shall not enumerate the various terminological distinctions 
of sagali gifts, as this would be impossible to do, without 
entering upon the enormous subject of mortuary duties and 

The classification of love gifts and sagali gifts in the same 
category with gifts to magicians and specialists, is a generalisa- 
tion in which the natives would not be able to follow us. For 
them, the gifts given at sagali form a class in themselves and 
so do the love gifts. We may say that, from the economic 
point of view, we were correct in classing all these gifts 
together, because they all represent a definite type of equiva- 
lence ; also they correspond to the native idea that every ser- 
vice has to be paid for, an idea documented by the linguistic 
use of the word mapula. But within this class, the sub- 
divisions corresponding to native terminology represent impor- 
tant distinctions made by the natives between the three 
sub-classes ; love gifts, sagali gifts, and gifts for magical and 
professional services. 


4. Gifts returned in economically equivalent form We are 
enumerating the various types of exchange, as they gradually 
assume the appearance of trade. In this fourth class have been 
put such gifts as must be re-paid with almost strict equivalence. 
But it must be stressed that strict equivalence of two gifts does 
not assimilate them to trade altogether. There can be no more 
perfect equivalence between gift and counter-gift, than when A 
gives to B an object, and B on the same day returns the very 
same object to A. At a certain stage of the mortuary pro- 
ceedings, such a gift is given and received back again by a 
deceased man's kinsmen and his widow's brothers. Yet it is 
obvious at once that no transaction could be further removed 
from trade. The above described gifts at the presentation of 
new canoes (kabigidoya) belong to this class. So do also numer- 
ous presents given to one community by another, on visits 
which are going to be returned soon. Payments for the lease of 
a garden plot are at least in certain districts of the Trobriands 
returned by a gift of equivalent value. 

Sociologically, this class of gifts is characteristic of the 
relationship between friends (luba'i). Thus the kabigidoya 
takes place between friends, the Kula takes place between 
overseas partners and inland friends, but of course relations- 
in-law also belong par excellence to this category. 

Other types of equivalent gifts which have to be mentioned 
here shortly, are the presents given by one household to another, 
at the milamala, the festive period associated with the return 
of the ancestral spirits to their villages. Offerings of cooked 
food are ceremonially exposed in houses for the use of the 
spirits, and after these have consumed the spiritual substance, 
the material one is given to a neighbouring household. These 
gifts are always reciprocal. 

Again, a series of mutual gifts exchanged immediately after 
marriage between a man and his wife's father (not matrilineal 
kinsman in this case), have to be put into this category. 

The economic similarity of these gifts is not expressed in 
terminology or even in linguistic use. All the gifts I have 
enumerated have their own special names, which I shall not 
adduce here, so as not to multiply irrelevant details of infor- 
mation. The natives have no comprehensive idea that such 
a class as I have spoken of exists. My generalisation is based 
upon the very interesting fact, that all through the tribal life 


we find scattered cases of direct exchange of equivalent 
gifts. Nothing perhaps could show up so clearly, how 
much the natives value the give and take of presents for 
its own sake. 

5. Exchange of Material Goods against Privileges, Titles 
and non- material Possessions. Under this heading, I class 
transactions which approach trade, in so far as two owners, 
each possessing something they value highly, exchange it for 
something they value still more. The equivalence here is not 
so strict, at any rate not so measurable, as in the previous 
class, because in this one, one of the terms is usually a non- 
material possession, such as the knowledge of magic, the 
privilege to execute a dance, or the title to a garden plot, which 
latter very often is a mere title only. But in spite of this 
smaller measure of equivalence, their character of trade is 
more marked, just because of the element of mutual desire to 
carry out the transaction and of the mutual advantage. 

Two important types of transaction belong to this class. 
One of them is the acquisition by a man of the goods or 
privileges which are due to him by inheritance from his maternal 
uncle or elder brother, but which he wishes to acquire before 
the elder's death. If a maternal uncle is to give up in his 
life time a garden, or to teach and hand over a system ot 
magic, he has to be paid for that. As a rule several payments, 
and very substantial ones, have to be given to him, and he 
gradually relinquishes his rights, giving the garden land, bit 
by bit, teaching the magic in instalments. After the final 
payment, the title of ownership is definitely handed over to 
the younger man. 

I have drawn attention already in the general description 
of the Trobriand Sociology (Chapter II, Division VI) to the 
remarkable contrast between matrilineal inheritance and that 
between father and son. It is noteworthy that what is con- 
sidered by the natives rightful inheritance has yet to be paid 
for, and that a man who knows that in any case he would 
obtain a privilege sooner or later, if he wants it at once, must 
pay for it, and that heavily. None the less, this transaction 
takes place only when it appears desirable to both parties. 
There is no customary obligation on either of the two to enter 
on the exchange, and it has to be considered advantageous to 
both before it can be completed. The acquisition of magic is 


of course different, because that must naturally always be 
taught by the elder man to the younger in his life time. 

The other type of transaction belonging to this class, is the 
payment for dances. Dances are " owned " ; that is, the 
original inventor has the right of " producing " his dance 
and song in his village community. If another village takes a 
fancy to this song and dance, it has to purchase the right to 
perform it. This is done by handing ceremonially to the 
original village a substantial payment of food and valuables, 
after which the dance is taught to the new possessors. 

In some rare cases, the title to garden-lands would pass 
from one community to another. For this again, the 
members and headman of the acquiring community would 
have to pay substantially to those who hand over their 

Another transaction which has to be mentioned here is the 
hire of a canoe, where a temporary transference of ownership 
takes place in return for a payment. 

The generalisation by which this class has been formed, 
although it does not run counter to native terminology and 
ideas, is beyond their own grasp, and contains several of their 
sub-divisions, differentiated by distinct native terms. The 
name for the ceremonial purchase of a task or for the transfer 
of a garden plot is laga. This term denotes a very big and 
important transaction. For example, when a small pig is 
purchased by food or minor objects of value, they call this 
barter (gimwali) but when a more valuable pig is exchanged 
for vaygu'a, they call it laga. 

The important conception of gradual acquisition in advance 
of matrilineal inheritance, is designated by the term pokala, 
a word which we have already met as signifying the tributes 
to the chief. It is a homonym, because its two meanings are 
distinct, and are clearly distinguished by the natives. There 
can be no doubt that these two meanings have developed out of 
a common one by gradual differentiation, but I have no data 
even to indicate this linguistic process. At present, it would be 
incorrect to strain after any connection between them, and 
indeed this is an example how necessary it is to be careful 
not to rely too much on native terminology for purposes of 

The term for the hire of a canoe is toguna waga. 


6. Ceremonial barter with deferred payment. In this class 
we have to describe payments which are ceremonially offered, 
and must be received and re-paid later on. The exchange is 
based on a permanent partnership, and the articles have to be 
roughly equivalent in value. Remembering the definition of 
the Kula in Chapter III, it is easy to see that this big, cere- 
monial, circulating exchange belongs to this class. It is cere- 
monial barter based on permanent partnership, where a gift 
offered is always accepted, and after a time has to be re-paid 
by an equivalent counter-gift. 

There is also a ceremonial form of exchange of vegetable food 
for fish, based on a standing partnership, and on the obligation 
to accept and return an initial gift. This is called wasi. The 
members of an inland village, where yams and taro are plentiful 
have partners in a Lagoon village, where much fishing is done 
but garden produce is scarce. Each man has his partner, and 
at times, when new food is harvested and also during the main 
harvest, he and his fellow villagers will bring a big quantity of 
vegetable food into the Lagoon village (see Plate XXXVI), 
each man putting his share before his partner's house. This is 
an invitation, which never can be rejected, to return the gift 
by its fixed equivalent in fish. 

As soon as weather and previous engagements allow, the 
fishermen go out to sea and notice is given to the inland village 
of the fact. The inlanders arrive on the beach, awaiting the 
fishermen, who come back in a body, and their haul of fish is 
taken directly from the canoes and carried to the inland village. 
Such large quantities of fish are always acquired only in con- 
nection with big distributions of food (sagali). It is remarkable 
that in the inland villages these distributions must be carried 
out in fish, whereas in the Lagoon villages, fish never can be 
used for ceremonial purposes, vegetables being the only 
article considered proper. Thus the motive for exchange 
here is not to get food in order to satisfy the primary 
want of eating, but in order to satisfy the social need 
of displaying large quantities of conventionally sanctioned 
eatables. Often when such a big fishing takes place, 
great quantities of fish perish by becoming rotten before 
they reach the man for whom they are finally destined. 
But being rotten in no way detracts from the value of fish 
in a sagali. 


The equivalence of fish, given in return for vegetable food, 
is measured only roughly. A standard sized bunch of taro, or 
one of the ordinary baskets of taytu (small yams) will be repaid 
by a bundle of fish, some thre to five kilograms in weight. 
The equivalence of the two payments, as well as the advantage 
obtained by one party at least, make this exchange approach 
barter.* But the element of trust enters into it largely; in 
the fact that the equivalence is left to the repayer ; and again, 
the initial gift which as a rule is always given by the inlanders, 
cannot be refused. And all these features distinguish this 
exchange from barter. 

Similar to this ceremonial exchange are certain arrange- 
ments in which food is brought by individuals to the industrial 
villages of Kuboma, and the natives of that place return it by 
manufactured objects when these are made. In certain cases 
of production of vaygu'a (valuables) it is difficult to judge 
whether we have to do with the payment for services rendered 
(Class 3), or with the type of ceremonial barter belonging to 
this class. There is hardly any need to add that the two types 
of exchange contained in this class, the Kula and the wasi (fish 
barter) are kept very distinct in the minds of the natives. 
Indeed, the ceremonial exchange of valuables, the Kula, stands 
out as such a remarkable form of trade that in all respects, 
not only by the natives, but also by ourselves, it must be put 
into a class by itself. There is no doubt, however, that the 
technique of the wasi must have been influenced by the ideas 
and usages of the Kula, which is by far the more important 
and widespread of the two. The natives, when explaining one 
of these trades, often draw parallels to the other. And the 
existence of social partnership, of ceremonial sequence of gift, 
of the free yet unevadible equivalence, all these features appear 
in both forms. This shows that the natives have a definite 
mental attitude towards what they consider an honourable, 
ceremonial type of barter. The rigid exclusion of haggling, 
the formalities observed in handing over the gift, the obligation 

* This advantage was probably in olden days a mutual one. Nowadays, 
when the hshermen can earn about ten or twenty times more by diving for 
pearls than by performing their share of the wast, the exchange is as a rule a 
great burden on them. It is one of the most conspicuous examples of the ten- 
acity of native custom that in spite of all the temptation which pearling offers 
them and in spite of the great pressure exercised upon them by the white traders, 
the fishermen never try to evade a wasi, and when they have received the 
inaugurating gift, the first calm day is always given to fishing, and not to 


of accepting the initial gift and of returning it later on, all 
these express this attitude. 

7. Trade, Pure and Simple. The main characteristic of 
this form of exchange is found in the element of mutual 
advantage : each side acquires what is needed, and gives away 
a less useful article. Also we find here the equivalence between 
the articles adjusted during the transaction by haggling or 

This bartering, pure and simple, takes place mainly between 
the industrial communities of the interior, which manufacture 
on a large scale the wooden dishes, combs, lime pots, armlets 
and baskets and the agricultural districts of Kiriwina, the 
fishing communities of the West, and the sailing and trading 
communities of the South. The industrials, who are regarded 
as pariahs and treated with contumely, are nevertheless allowed 
to hawk their goods throughout the other districts. When 
they have plenty of articles on hand, they go to the other 
places, and ask for yams, coco-nuts, fish, and betel-nut, and for 
some ornaments, such as turtle shell, earrings and spondylus 
beads. They sit in groups and display their wares, saying 
" You have plenty of coco-nuts, and we have none. We have 
made fine wooden dishes. This one is worth forty nuts, and 
some betel-nut, and some betel pepper.' 1 The others then may 
answer, " Oh, no, I do not want it. You ask too much." 
" What will you give us ? " An offer may be made, and 
rejected by the pedlars, and so on, till a bargain is struck. 

Again, at certain times, people from other villages may need 
some of the objects made in Kuboma, and will go there, and try 
to purchase some manufactured goods. People of rank as a 
rule will do it in the manner described in the previous para- 
graph, by giving an initial gift, and expecting a repayment. 
Others simply go and barter. As we saw in the description of 
the kabigidoya, the Sinaketans and Vakutans go there and 
purchase goods before each Kula expedition to serve for the 
subsidiary trade. 

Thus the conception of pure barter (gimwali) stands out very 
clearly, and the natives make a definite distinction between this 
and other forms of exchange. Embodied in a word, this 
distinction is made more poignant still by the manner in which 
the word is used. When scornfully criticising bad conduct in 
Kula, or an improper manner of giving gifts, a native will say 


that " it was done like a gimwali/' When asked, about a 
transaction, whether it belongs to one class or another, they will 
reply with an accent of depreciation " That was only a 
gimwali (gimwali wala !) " In the course of ethnographic 
investigation, they give clear descriptions, almost definitions 
of gimwali, its lack of ceremony, the permissibility of haggling, 
the free manner in which it can be done between any two 
strangers. They state correctly and clearly its general 
conditions, and they tell readily which articles may be 
exchanged by gimwali. 

Of course certain characteristics of pure barter, which we 
can perceive clearly as inherent in the facts, are quite beyond 
their theoretical grasp. Thus for instance, that the element 
of mutual advantage is prominent in gimwali ; that it refers 
exclusively to newly manufactured goods, because second- 
hand things are never gimwali, etc., etc. Such generalisations 
the ethnographer has to make for himself. Other properties 
of the gimwali embodied in custom are : absence of ceremonial, 
absence of magic, absence of special partnership all these 
already mentioned above. In carrying out the transaction, 
the natives also behave quite differently here than in the other 
transactions. In all ceremonial forms of give and take, it is 
considered very undignified and against all etiquette, for the 
receiver to show any interest in the gift or any eagerness to 
take it. In ceremonial distributions as well as in the Kula, the 
present is thrown down by the giver, sometimes actually, 
sometimes only given in an abrupt manner, and often it is not 
even picked up by the receiver, but by some insignificant person 
in his following. In the gimwali, on the contrary, there is a 
pronounced interest shown in the exchange. 

There is one instance of gimwali which deserves special 
attention. It is a barter of fish for vegetables, and stands out 
in sharp contrast therefore to the wasi, the ceremonial fish and 
yam exchange. It is called vava, and takes place between 
villages which have no standing wasi partnership and there- 
fore simply gimwali their produce when necessary (see 
Plate XXXVII). 

This ends the short survey of the different types of exchange. 
It was necessary to give it, even though in a condensed form, 
in order to provide a background for the Kula. It gives us 
an idea of the great range and variety of the material give and 


take associated with the Trobriand tribal life. We see also 
that the rules of equivalence, as well as the formalities accom- 
panying each transaction, are very well defined. 


It is easy to see that almost all the categories of gifts, which 
I have classified according to economic principles, are also based 
on some sociological relationship. Thus the first type of gifts, 
that is, the free gifts, take place in the relationship between 
husband and wife, and in that between parents and children. 
Again, the second class of gifts, that is, the obligatory ones, 
given without systematic repayment, are associated with 
relationship-in-law, mainly, though the chief's tributes also 
belong to this class. 

If we drew up a scheme of sociological relations, each type 
of them would be defined by a special class of economic duties. 
There would be some parallelism between such a sociological 
classification of payments and presents, and the one given above. 
But such parallelism is only approximate. It will be therefore 
interesting to draw up a scheme of exchanges, classified accord- 
ing to the social relationship, to which they correspond. This 
will give us good insight into the economics of Trobriand 
sociology, as well as another view of the subject of payments 
and presents. 

Going over the sociological outline in Chapter II, Divisions 
V and VI, we see that the family, the clan and sub-clan, 
the village community, the district and the tribe are the main 
social divisions of the Trobriands. To these groupings corres- 
pond definite bonds of social relationship. Thus, to the 
family, there correspond no less than three distinct types of 
relationship, according to native ideas. First of ail there is the 
matrilineai kinship (veyola) which embraces people, who can 
trace common descent through their mothers. This is, to the 
natives, the blood relationship, the identity of flesh, and the 
real kinship. The marriage relation comprises that between 
husband and wife, and father and children. Finally, the 
relationship between the husband and the wife's matrilineai 
kinsmen forms the third class of personal ties corresponding to 
family. These three types of personal bonds are clearly dis- 
tinguished in terminology, in the current linguistic usage, in 
custom, and in explicitly formulated ideas. 


To the grouping into clans and sub-clans, there pertain the 
ties existing between clansmen and more especially between 
members of the same sub-clan, and on the other hand, the 
relationship between a man and members of different clans. 
Membership in the same sub-clan is a kind of extended kinship. 
The relationship to other clans is most important, where it 
assumes the form of special friendship called luba'i. * The 
grouping into village communities results in the very impor- 
tant feature of fellow membership in the same village com- 
munity. The distinction of rank associated with clanship, the 
division into village communities and districts, result, in the 
manner sketched out in Chapter II, in the subordination of 
commoners to chiefs,. Finally, the general fact of membership 
in the tribe creates the bonds which unite every tribesman 
with another and which in olden days allowed of a free 
though not unlimited intercourse, and therefore of com- 
mercial relations. We have, therefore, eight types of 
personal relationship to distinguish. In the following 
table we see them enumerated with a short survey of their 
economic characteristics. 

1. Matrilineal kinship. The underlying idea that this 
means identity of blood and of substance is by no means 
forcibly expressed on its economic side. The right of inheri- 
tance, the common participation in certain titles of ownership, 
and a limited right to use one another's implements and 
objects of daily use are often restricted in practice by private 
jealousies and animosities. In economic gifts more especially, 
we find here the remarkable custom of purchasing during life- 
time, by instalments, the titles to garden plots and trees and 
the knowledge of magic, which by right ought to pass at 
death from the older to the younger generation of matri- 
lineal kinsmen. The economic identity of matrilineal kins- 
men comes into prominence at the tribal distributions 
sagali where all of them have to share in the responsibilities 
of providing food. 

2. Marriage ties. (Husband and wife ; and derived from 
that, father and children). It is enough to tabulate this type 
of relationship here, and to remind the reader that it is 
characterised by free gifts, as has been minutely described in 
the foregoing classification of gifts, under (i). 


3. Relationship -in-law. These ties are in their economic 
aspect not reciprocal or symmetrical. That is, one side in it, 
the husband of the woman, is the economically favoured 
recipient, while the wife's brothers receive from him gifts of 
smaller value in the aggregate. As we know, this relationship 
is economically denned by the regular and substantial harvest 
gifts, by which the husband's storehouse is filled every year by 
his wife's brothers. They also have to perform certain services 
for him. For all this, they receive a gift of vaygu'a (valuables) 
from time to time, and some food in payment for services 

4. Clanship. The main economic identification of this 
group takes place during the sagali, although the responsi- 
bility for the food rests only with those actually related by 
blood with the deceased man. All the members of the sub- 
clan, and to a smaller extent members of the same clan within 
a village community, have to contribute by small presents 
given to the organisers of the sagali. 

5 The Relationship of Personal Friendship. Two men thus 
bound as a rule will carry on Kula between themselves, and, if 
they belong to an inland and Lagoon village respectively, they 
will be partners in the exchange of fish and vegetables (wasi). 

6. Fellow-citizenship in a Village Community. There are 
many types of presents given by one community to another. 
And, economically, the bonds of fellow-citizenship mean the 
obligation to contribute one's share to such a present. Again, 
at the mortuary divisions, sagali, the fellow-villagers of clans, 
differing from the deceased man's, receive a series of presents 
for the performance of mortuary duties. 

7. Relationship between Chiefs and Commoners. The 
tributes and services given to a chief by his vassals on the one 
hand, and the small but frequent gifts which he gives them, 
and the big and important contribution which he makes to all 
tribal enterprises are characteristic of this relationship. 

8. Relationship between any two tribesmen. This is character- 
ised by payments and presents, by occasional trade between 
two individuals, and by the sporadic free gifts of tobacco or 
betel-nut which no man would refuse to another unless they 
were on terms of hostility. 


With this, the survey of gifts and presents is finished. The 
general importance of give and take to the social fabric of 
Boy o wan society, the great amount of distinctions and sub- 
divisions of the various gifts can leave no doubt as to the 
paramount role which economic acts and motives play in the 
life of these natives. 


We have brought the Kula narrative to the point where all 
the preparations have been made, the canoe is ready, its 
ceremonial launching and presentation have taken place, and 
the goods for the subsidiary trade have been collected. It 
remains only to load the canoes and to set sail. So far, in 
describing the construction, the tasasoria and kabigidoya, we 
spoke of the Trobrianders in general. Now we shall have to 
confine ourselves to one district, the southern part of the Island, 
and we shall follow a Kula expedition from Sinaketa to Dobu. 
For there are some differences between the various districts 
and each one must be treated separately. What is said of 
Sinaketa, however, will hold good so far as the other southern 
community, that of Vakuta, is concerned. The scene, there- 
fore, of all that is described in the following two chapters will 
be set in one spot, that is, the group of some eight component 
villages lying on the flat, muddy shore of the Trobriand 
Lagoon, within about a stone's throw of one another. There 
is a short, sandy beach under a fringe of palm trees, and from 
there we can take a comprehensive view of the Lagoon, the 
wide semi-circle of its shore edged with the bright green of 
mangroves, backed by the high jungle on the raised coral ridge 
of the Raybwag. A few small, flat islands on the horizon just 
faintly thicken its line, and on a clear day the mountains of the 
d'Entrecasteaux are visible as blue shadows in the far distance. 
From the beach, we step directly into one of the villages, a 
row of houses faced by another of yam-stores. Through this, 
leaving on our right a circular village, and passing through 
some empty spaces with groves of betel and coco-nut palms, we 
come to the main component village of Sinaketa, to Kasiyetana. 
There, overtopping the elegant native huts, stands an enormous 
corrugated iron shed, built on piles, but with the space between 


the floor and the ground filled up carefully with white coral 
stones. This monument testifies both to native vanity and to 
the strength of their superstitions vanity in aping the white 
man's habit of raising the house, and native belief in the fear 
of the bwaga'u (sorcerer), whose most powerful sorcery is 
applied by burning magical herbs, and could not be warded off, 
were he able to creep under the house. It may be added that 
even the missionary teachers, natives of the Trobriands, always 
put a solid mass of stones to fill the space beneath their houses. 
To'udawada, the chief of Kasiyetana, is, by the way, the only 
man in Boyowa who has a corrugated iron house, and in fact 
in the whole of the island there are not more than a dozen 
houses which are not built exactly according to the traditional 
pattern. To'udawada is also the only native whom I ever saw 
wearing a sun-helmet ; otherwise he is a decent fellow 
(physically quite pleasant looking), tall, with a broad, intelli- 
gent face. Opposite his iron shanty are the fine native huts of 
his four wives. 

Walking towards the North, over the black soil here and 
there pierced by coral, among tall trees and bits of jungle, 
fields and gardens, we come to Kanubayne, the village of 
Kouta'uya, the second most important chief in Sinaketa. 
Very likely we shall see him sitting on the platform of his hut 
or yam-house, a shrivelled up, toothless old man, wearing a big 
native wig. He, as well as To'udawada, belongs to the highest 
ranks of chieftainship, and they both consider themselves 
the equals of the chiefs of Kiriwina. But the power of each one 
is limited to his small, component village, and neither in cere- 
monial nor in wealth did they, at least in olden days, approach 
their kinsmen in the North. There is still another chief of 
the same rank in Sinaketa, who governs the small village of 
Oraywota. This is Sinakadi, a puffed up, unhealthy looking, 
bald and toothless old man, and a really contemptible and 
crooked character, despised by black and white alike. He has 
a well-established reputation of boarding white men's boats as 
soon as they arrive, with one or two of his young wives in the 
canoe, and of returning soon after, alone, but with plenty of 
tobacco and good merchandise. Lax as is the Trobriander's 
sense of honour and morality in such matters, this is too 
much even for them, and Sinakadi is accordingly not respected 
in his village. 








<J ^ 

Q 3" 

UJ oj 




The rest of the villages are ruled by headmen of inferior 
rank, but of not much less importance and power than the 
main chiefs. One of them, a queer old man, spare and lame 
but with an extremely dignified and deliberate manner, called 
Layseta, is renowned for his extensive knowledge of all sorts 
of magic, and for his long sojourns in foreign countries, such 
as the Amphletts and Dobu. We shall meet some of these 
chiefs later on in our wanderings. Having described the 
villages and headmen of Sinaketa let us return to our narrative. 

A few days before the appointed date of the departure of the 
Kula expedition there is a great stir in the villages. Visiting 
parties arrive from the neighbourhood, bringing gifts mostly of 
food, to serve as provisions for the journey. They sit in 
front of the huts, talking and commenting, while the local 
people go about their business. In the evenings, long con- 
ferences are held over the fires, and late hours are kept. The 
preparation of food is mainly woman's work, whereas the men 
put the finishing touches to the canoes, and perform their 

Sociologically the group of the departing differentiates 
itself of course from those who remain. But even within that 
group a further differentiation takes place, brought about by 
their respective functions in the Kula. First of all there are 
the masters of the canoe, the toliwaga, who will play quite a 
definite part for the next few weeks. On each of them fall 
with greater stringency the taboos, whether those that have 
to be kept in Sinaketa or in Dobu. Each has to perform the 
magic and act in ceremonies. Each will also enjoy the main 
honours and privileges of the Kula. The members of the crew, 
the usagelu, some four to six men in each canoe, form another 
group. They sail the craft, perform certain magical rites, and 
as a rule do the Kula each on his own account. A couple of 
younger men in each canoe, who do not yet kula, but who 
help in the work of sailing, form another class, and are called 
silasila. Here and there a small boy will go with his father on 
a Kula expedition such are called dodo'u and makes himself 
useful by blowing the conch shell. Thus the whole fleet 
consists of four classes, that of the toliwaga, the usagelu, the 
helpers and the children. From Sinaketa, women, whether 
married or unmarried, never go on overseas expeditions, though 
a different custom prevails in the eastern part of the Trobriands. 


Each toliwaga has to give a payment in food to his usagelu, and 
this is done in the form of a small ceremony of distribution of 
food called mwalolo, and held after the return from the expe- 
dition, in the central place of the village. 

A few days before the sailing, the toliwaga starts his series 
of magical rites and begins to keep his taboos, the women busy 
themselves with the final preparation of the food, and the men 
trim the waga (canoe) for the imminent, long journey. 

The taboo of the toliwaga refers to his sexual life. During 
the last two nights, he has in any case to be up late in con- 
nection with his magical performances, and with the visits of 
his friends and relatives from other villages, who bring pro- 
visions for the voyage, presents in trade goods, and who chat 
about the forthcoming expedition. But he has also to keep 
vigil far into the night as a customary injunction, and he has to 
sleep alone, though his wife may sleep in the same house. 

The preparations of the canoe are begun by covering it 
with plaited mats called yawarapu. They are put on the 
platform, thus making it convenient for walking, sitting and 
spreading about of small objects. This, the first act of canoe 
trimming, is associated with a magical rite. The plaited leaves 
are chanted over by the toliwaga on the shore as they are put on 
the canoe. Or, in a different system of Kula magic the 
toliwaga medicates some ginger root and spits it on the mats in 
his hut. This is a specimen of the magical formula which would 
be used in such a rite : 


" Betel-nut, betel-nut, female betel-nut ; betel-nut, 
betel-nut, male betel-nut ; betel-nut of the ceremonial 
spitting ! " 

" The chiefs' comrades ; the chiefs and their followers ; 
their sun, the afternoon sun ; their pig, a small pig. One 
only is my day " here the reciter utters his own name 
" their dawn, their morning." 

This is the exordium of the spell. Then follows the 
main body. The two words boraytupa and badederuma, 
coupled together, are repeated with a string of other words. 
The first word of the couple means, freely translated, 
' quick sailing,' and the second one, ' abundant haul/ 
The string of words which are in succession tacked on to 
this couple describe various forms of Kula necklaces. 


The necklaces of different length and of different finish 
have each their own class names, of which there are about 
a dozen. After that, a list of words, referring to the 
human head, are recited : 

" My head, my nose, my occiput, my tongue, my 
throat, my larynx, etc., etc." Finally, the various 
objects carried on a Kula expedition are mentioned. The 
goods to be given (pari) ; a ritually wrapped up bundle 
(lilava) ; the personal basket ; the sleeping mat ; big 
baskets ; the lime stick ; the lime pot and comb are uttered 
one after the other. 

Finally the magician recites the end part of the spell ; 
" I shall kick the mountain, the mountain moves, the 
mountain tumbles down, the mountain starts on its 
ceremonial activities, the mountain acclaims, the mountain 
falls down, the mountain lies prostrate ! My spell shall go 
to the top of Dobu Mountain, my spell will penetrate the 
inside of my canoe. The body of my canoe will sink ; 
the float of my canoe will get under water. My fame is 
like thunder, my treading is like the roar of the flying 

The first part of this spell contains a reference to the 
betel-nut, this being one of the things which the natives expect 
to receive in the Kula. On the other hand, it is one of the 
substances which the natives charm over and give to the 
partner to induce him to kula with them. To which of these 
two acts the spell refers, it is impossible to decide, nor can the 
natives tell it. The part in which he extols his speed and 
success are typical of the magic formulae, and can be found in 
many others. 

The main part of the spell is as usual much easier to inter- 
pret. It implies, broadly speaking, the declaration : " I shall 
speed and be successful with regard to the various forms of 
vaygu'a ; I shall speed and be successful with my head, with my 
speech, with my appearance ; in all my trade goods and 
personal belongings." The final part of the spell describes the 
impression which is to be made by the man's magic upon ' the 
mountain/ which stands here for the district of Dobu -and its 
inhabitants. In fact, the districts in the d'Entrecasteaux to 
which they are sailing are always called koya (mountain). The 
exaggerations, the metaphors, and the implicit insistence on the 
power of the spell are very characteristic of all magical spells. 


The next day, or the day after, as there is often a delay in 
starting, a pig or two are given by the master of the expedition 
to all the participants. In the evening of that day, the owner 
of each canoe goes into the garden, and finds an aromatic mint 
plant (sulumwoya). Taking a sprig of it into his hand, he moves 
it to and fro, uttering a spell, and then he plucks it. ^This is 
the spell : 


" Who cuts the sulumwoya of Laba'i ? I, Kwoyregu, 
with my father, we cut the sulumwoya of Laba'i ! The 
roaring sulumwoya, it roars ; the quaking sulumwoya, it 
quakes ; the soughing sulumwoya, it soughs ; the boiling 
sulumwoya, it boils " 

" My sulumwoya, it boils, my lime spoon, it boils, my 
lime pot, it boils, my comb . . . my basket . . . 
my small basket . . . my mat . . . my lilava 
bundle . , . my presentation goods (pan] . 
And with each of these terms, the word ' boils ' or ' foams 
up ' is repeated often several times. After that, the same 
verb ' it boils ' is repeated with all parts of the head, as 
in the previously quoted formula. 

The last part runs thus : " Recently deceased spirit of 
my maternal uncle Mwoyalova, breathe thy spell over the 
head of Monikiniki. Breathe the spell upon the head of 
my light canoe. I shall kick the mountain ; the mountain 
tilts over ; the mountain subsides ; the mountain opens 
up ; the mountain jubilates ; it topples over. I shall 
kula so as to make my canoe sink. I shall kula so as to 
make my outrigger go under. My fame is like thunder, 
my treading is like the roar of the flying witdies." 

The exordium of this spell contains some mythical refer- 
ences, of which, however, my informants could give me only 
confused explanations. But it is clear in so far as it refers 
directly to the magical mint, and describes its magical 
efficiency. In the second part, there is again a list of words 
referring to objects used in the Kula, and to the personal 
appearance and persuasiveness of the magician. The verb 
with which they are repeated refers to the boiling of the mint 
and coco-nut oil which I shall presently have to mention, 

* Compare the linguistic analysis of the original text of this spell, given 
in Chapter XVIH. 


and it indicates that the magical properties of the mint are 
imparted to the toliwaga and his goods. In the last part, 
the magician invokes the spirit of his real maternal kinsman, 
from whom he obtained this spell, and asks him to impart 
magical virtue to his canoe. The mythological name, 
Monikiniki, with which there is no myth connected, except the 
tradition that he was the original owner of all these spells, stands 
here as synonym of the canoe. At the very end in the dogina, 
which contains several expressions identical with those in the 
end part of the Yawarapu spell, we have another example of 
the strongly exaggerated language so often used in magic. 

After having thus ritually plucked the mint plant, the 
magician brings it home. There he finds one of his usagelu 
(members of crew) who helps him by boiling some coco-nut oil 
(bulami) in a small native clay pot. Into the boiling oil the mint 
plant is put, and, while it boils, a magical formula is uttered 
over it. 


" No betel-nut, no doga (ornament of circular boar's 
tusk), no betel- pod ! My power to change his mind ; 
my mwasila magic, my mwase, mwasare, mwaserewai." 
This last sentence contains a play on words very character- 
istic of Kiriwinian magic. It is difficult to interpret the 
opening sentence. Probably it means something like 
this : "No betel-nut or pod, no gift of a doga, can be as 
strong as my mwasila and its power of changing my 
partner's mind in my favour ! " 

Now comes the main part of the spell : " There is one 
sulumwoya (mint) of mine, a sulumwoya of Laba'i which I 
shall place on top of Gumasila." 

" Thus shall I make a quick Kula on top of Gumasila ; 
thus shall I hide away my Kula on top of Gumasila ; thus 
shall I rob my Kula on top of Gumasila ; thus shall I 
forage my Kula on top of Gumasila ; thus shall I steal my 
Kula on top of Gumasila." 

These last paragraphs are repeated several times, 
inserting instead of the name of the island of Gumasila 
the following ones : Kuyawaywo, Domdom, Tewara, 
Siyawawa, Sanaroa, Tu'utauna, Kamsareta, Gorebubu. 
All these are the successive names of places in which Kula 
is made. In this long spell, the magician follows the 
course of a Kula expedition, enumerating its most 


conspicuous landmarks. The last part in this formula is 
identical with the last part of the Yawarapu Spell, 
previously quoted : " I shall kick the mountain, etc." 

After the recital of this spell over the oil and mint, the 
magician takes these substances, and places them in a receptacle 
made of banana leaf toughened by grilling. Nowadays a glass 
bottle is sometimes used instead. The receptacle is then 
attached to a stick thrast through the prow boards of the 
canoe and protruding slantwise over the nose. As we shall see 
later on, the aromatic oil will be used in anointing some objects 
on arrival at Dobu. 

With this, however, the series of magical rites is not 
finished. The next day, early in the morning, the ritual 
bundle of representative trade goods, called lilava, is made up 
with the recital of a magical spell. A few objects of trade, a 
plaited armlet, a comb, a lime pot, a bundle of betel-nut are 
placed on a clean, new mat, and into the folded mat the spell 
is recited. Then the mat is rolled up, and over it another 
mat is placed, and one or two may be wrapped round ; thus it 
contains, hermetically sealed, the magical virtue of the spell. 
This bundle is placed afterwards in a special spot in the centre 
of the canoe, and is not opened till the expedition arrives in 
Dobu. There is a belief that a magical portent (kariyala} is 
associated with it. A gentle rain, accompanied by thunder 
and lightning, sets in whenever the lilava is opened. A 
sceptical European might add, that in the monsoon season it 
almost invariably rains on any afternoon, with the accompani- 
ment of thunder, at the foot or on the slopes of such high hills 
as are found in the d'Entrecasteaux group. Of course when, in 
spite of that, a kariyala does not make its appearance, we all 
know something has been amiss in the performance of the 
magical rite over the lilava ! This is the spell recited over the 
tabooed lilava bundle. 


" I skirt the shore of the beach of Kaurakoma ; the 
beach of Kayli, the Kayli of Muyuwa." I cannot add any 
explanation which would make this phrase clearer. It 
obviously contains some mythological references to which 
I have no key. The spell runs on : 


" I shall act magically on my mountain. . . Where 
shall I lie ? I shall lie in Legumatabu ; I shall dream, 
I shall have dream visions ; rain will come as my magical 
portent. . . his mind is on the alert ; he lies not, he 
sits not, he stands up and trembles, he stands up and is 
agitated ; the renown of Kewara is small, my own 
renown flares up. 

This whole period is repeated over and over again, each 
time the name of another place being inserted instead of 
that of Legumatabu. Legumatabu is a small coral island 
some two hundred yards long and a hundred yards wide, 
with a few pandanus trees growing on it, wild fowl and 
turtle laying their eggs in its sand. In this island, half 
way between Sinaketa and the Amphletts, the Sinaketan 
sailors often spend a night or two, if overtaken by bad 
weather or contrary winds. 

This period contains first a direct allusion to the 
magical portent of the lilava. In its second half it 
describes the state of agitation of the Dobuan partner 
under the influence of this magic, a state of agitation which 
will prompt him to be generous in the Kula. I do not 
know whether the word Kewara is a proper name or what 
else it may mean, but the phrase contains a boast of the 
magician's own renown, very typical of magical formulae. 

The localities mentioned instead of Legumatabu in the 
successive repetitions of the period are : Yakum, another 
small coral island, Urasi, the Dobuan name for Gumasila, 
Tewara, Sanaro'a, and Tu'utauna, all localities known 
to us already from our description of Dobu. 

This is a very long spell. After the recital, and a very 
lengthy one, of the last period with its variants, yet 
another change is introduced into it. Instead of the first 
phrase " where shall I lie ? etc." the new form runs "Where 
does the rainbow stand up ? It stands up on the top of 
Koyatabu/' and after this the rest of the period is 
repeated : " I shall dream, I shall have dream visions, 
etc." This new form is again varied by uttering instead 
of Koyatabu, Kamsareta, Koyava'u, and Gorebubu.* 
This again carries us through the landscape ; but here, 
instead of the sleeping places we follow the beacons of the 
sailing expedition by mentioning the tops of the high 
mountains. The end part of this spell is again identical 
with that of the Yawarapu Spell. 

* Koyatabu the mountain on the North shore of Fergusson , Kamsareta, 
the highest hill on Domdom, in the Amphletts ; Koyava'u the moun- 
tain opposite Dobu island, on the North shore of Dawson Straits ; Gorebubu 
the volcano on Dobu island. 


This magical rite takes place on the morning of the last day. 
Immediately after the recital of the spell, and the rolling up of 
the lilava, it is carried to the canoe, and put into its place of 
honour. By that time the usagelu (members of the crew) 
have already made the canoe ready for sailing. 

Each masawa canoe is divided into ten, eleven, or twelve 
compartments by the stout, horizontal poles called riu* which 
join the body of the canoe with the outrigger. Such a com- 
partment is called liku, and each liku has its name and its 
function. Starting from the end of the canoe, the first liku, 
which, as is easily seen, is both narrow and shallow, is called 
ogugwau, ' in the mist/ and this is the proper place for the 
conch-shell. Small boys will sit there and blow the conch- 
shell on ceremonial occasions. 

The next compartment is called likumakava, and there some 
of the food is stowed away. The third division is called 
kayliku and water-bottles made of coco-nut shells have their 
traditional place in it. The fourth liku, called likuguya'u, is, 
as its name indicates, the place for the guya'u or chief, which, it 
may be added, is unofficially used as a courtesy title for any 
headman, or man of importance. The baler, yalumila, always 
remains in this compartment. Then follow the central com- 
partments, called gebobo, one, two or three, according to the 
size of the canoe. This is the place where the lilava is put on the 
platform, and where are placed the best food, not to be eaten till 
the arrival in Dobu, and all valuable trade articles. After that 
central division, the same divisions, as in the first part are 
met in inverse order (see Plate XXXIX). 

When the canoe is going to carry much cargo, as is always 
the case on an expedition to Dobu, a square space is fenced 
round corresponding to the gebobo part of the canoe. A big sort 
of square hen-coop, or cage, is thus erected in the middle of the 
canoe, and this is full of bundles wrapped up in mats, and at 
times when the canoe is not travelling, it is usually covered over 
with a sail. In the bottom of the canoe a floor is made by a 
framework of sticks. On this, people can walk and things 
can rest, while the bilgewater flows underneath, and is baled 
out from time to time. On this framework, in the gebobo, four 
coco-nuts are placed, each in the corner of the square, while a 
spell is recited over them. It is after that, that the lilava and 
the choice food, and the rest of the trade are stowed away. 


The following spell belongs to the class which is recited over the 
four coco-nuts. 


" My father, my mother . . . Kula, mwasila." 
This short exordium, running in the compressed style 
proper to magical beginnings, is rather enigmatic, except 
for the mention of the Kula and mwasila, which explain 
themselves. The second part is less obscure : 

" I shall fill my canoe with bagido'u, I shall fill my canoe 
with bagiriku, I shall fill my canoe with bagidudu, etc." 
All the specific names of the necklaces are enumerated. 
The last part runs as follows : " I shall anchor in the open 
sea, and my renown will go to the Lagoon, I shall anchor 
in the Lagoon, and my renown will go to the open sea. 
My companions will be on the open sea and on the Lagoon. 
My renown is like thunder, my treading is like earthquake." 

This last part is similar to several of the other formula*. 
This rite is obviously a Kula rite, judging from the spell, but 
the natives maintain that its special virtue is to make the 
food stuffs, loaded into the canoe, last longer. After this rite 
is over, the loading is done quickly, the lilava is put into its place 
of honour, and with it the best food to be eaten in Dobu. Some 
other choice food to serve as pokala (offerings) is also put in the 
gebobo, to be offered to overseas partners ; on it, the rest of 
the trade, called pari, is piled, and right on top of all are the 
personal belongings of the usagelu and the toliwaga in their 
respective baskets, shaped like travelling bags. 

The people from the inland villages, kulila'odila, as they are 
called, are assembled on the beach. With them stand the 
women, the children, the old men, and the few people left to 
guard the village. The master of the fleet gets up and addresses 
the crowd on the shore, more or less in these words : 

" Women, we others sail ; you remain in the village and 
look after the gardens and the houses ; you must keep 
chaste. When you get into the bush to get wood, may not 
one of you lag behind. When you go to the gardens to do 
work keep together. Return together with your younger 

He also admonishes the people from the other villages to 
keep away, never to visit Sinaketa at night or in the evening, 
and never to come singly into the village. On hearing that, 


the headman of an inland village will get up and speak in this 
fashion : 

" Not thus, oh, our chief ; you go away, and your 
village will remain here as it is. Look, when you are here 
we come to see you. You sail away, we shall keep to our 
villages. When you return, we come again. Perhaps 
you will give us some betel-nut, some sago, some coco-nuts. 
Perhaps you will kula to us some necklace of shell beads." 

After these harangues are over, the canoes sail away in a 
body. Some of the women on the beach may weep at the 
actual departure, but it is taboo to weep afterwards. The 
woman are also supposed to keep the taboo, that is, not to 
walk alone out of the village, not to receive male visitors, in 
fact, to remain chaste and true to their husbands during their 
absence. Should a woman commit misconduct, her husband's 
canoe would be slow. As a rule there are recriminations 
between husbands and wives and consequent bad feeling on the 
return of the party ; whether the canoe should be blamed or 
the wife it is difficult to say. 

The women now look out for the rain and thunder, for the 
sign that the men have opened the lilava (special magical 
bundle). Then they know that the party has arrived on the 
beach of Sarubwoyna, and performs now its final magic, and 
prepares for its entrance into the villages of Tu'utauna, and 
Bwayowa. The women are very anxious that the men should 
succeed in arriving at Dobu, and that they should not be 
compelled by bad weather to return from the Amphletts. 
They have been preparing special grass skirts to put on, when 
they meet the returning canoes on the beach ; they also hope 
to receive the sago, which is considered a dainty, and some 
of the ornaments, which their men bring them back from 
Dobu. If for any reason the fleet returns prematurely, there 
is great disappointment throughout the village, because this 
means the expedition has been a failure, nothing has been 
brought back to those left at home, and they have no oppor- 
tunity of wearing their ceremonial dress. 



AFTER so many preparations and preliminaries, we might 
expect that, once embarked, the natives would make straight 
for the high mountains, which beckon them alluringly from the 
distant South. Quite on the contrary, they are satisfied with 
a very short stage the first day, and after sailing a few miles, 
they stop on a big sand bank called Muwa, lying to the south- 
west of the village of Sinaketa. Here, near the sandy shore, 
edged with old, gnarled trees, the canoes are moored by sticks, 
while the crews prepare for a ceremonial distribution of food, 
and arrange their camp for the night on the beach. 

This somewhat puzzling delay is less incomprehensible, if 
we reflect that the natives, after having prepared for a distant 
expedition, now at last for the first time find themselves 
together, separated from the rest of the villagers. A sort of 
mustering and reviewing of forces, as a rule associated with a 
preliminary feast held by the party, is characteristic of all the 
expeditions or visits in the Trobriands. 

I have spoken already about big and small expeditions, but 
I have not perhaps made quite clear that the natives them- 
selves make a definite distinction between big, competitive 
Kula expeditions, called uvalaku, and sailings on a smaller 
scale, described as ' just Kula/ (" Kula wala "). The uvalaku 
are held every two or three years from each district, though 
nowadays, as in everything else, the natives are getting slack. 
One would be held, whenever there is a great agglomeration of 
vaygu'a, due to reasons which I shall describe later on. Some- 
times, a special event, such as the possession by one of the 
head men of an exceptionally fine pig, or of an object of high 
value, might give rise to an uvalaku. Thus, in 1918, a big 
competitive expedition (uvalaku) from Dobu was held 


ostensibly for the reason that Kauyaporu, one of the head men 
of Tu'utauna, owned a very large boar with tusks almost 
curling over into a circle. Again, plenty of food, or in olden 
days the completion of a successful war expedition, would form 
the raison d'etre of an uvalaku. Of course these reasons, 
explicitly given by the natives, are, so to speak, accessory 
causes, for in reality an uvalaku would be held whenever its 
turn came, that is, barring great scarcity of food or the death 
of an important personage. 

The uvalaku is a Kula expedition on an exceptionally big 
scale, carried on with a definite social organisation under 
scrupulous observance of all ceremonial and magical rites, and 
distinguished from the smaller expeditions by its size, by a 
competitive element, and by one or two additional features. 
On an uvalaku, all the canoes in the district will sail, and they 
will sail fully manned. Everybody will be very eager to take 
part in it. Side by side with this natural desire, however, 
there exists the idea that all the members of the crews are under 
an obligation to go on the expedition. This duty they owe to 
the chief, or master of the uvalaku. The toli'uvalaku, as he is 
called, is always one of the sectional chiefs or headmen. He 
plays the part of a master of ceremonies, oi> leaving the beach 
of Sinaketa, at the distributions of food, on arrival in the 
overseas villages, and on the ceremonial return home. A 
streamer of dried and bleached pandanus leaf, attached to the 
prows of his canoe on a stick, is the ostensible sign of the 
dignity. Such a streamer is called tarabauba'u in Kiriwinian, 
and doya in the Dobuan language, The headman, who is 
toli'uvalaku on an expedition, will as a rule receive more Kula 
gifts than the others. On him also will devolve the glory of this 
particular expedition. Thus the title of toll, in this case, is one 
of honorary and nominal ownership, resulting mainly in renown 
(butura) for its bearer, and as such highly valued by the natives. 

From the economic and legal point of view, however, the 
obligation binding the members of the expedition to him is the 
most important sociological feature. He gives the distribution 
of food, in which the others participate, and this imposes on 
them the duty of carrying out the expedition, however hard this 
might be, however often they would have to stop or even return 
owing to bad weather, contrary winds, or, in olden, days, inter- 
ference by hostile natives. As the natives say, 


" We cannot return on uvalaku, for \\e have eaten of 
the pig, and we have chewed of the betel-nut given by the 
toli' uvalaku." 

Only after the most distant community with whom the 
Sinaketans kula has been reached, and after due time has been 
allowed for the collection of any vaygua within reach, will the 
party start on the return journey. Concrete cases are quoted 
in which expeditions had to start several times from Sinaketa, 
always returning within a few days after all the provisions had 
been eaten on Muwa, from where a contrary wind would not 
allow the canoes to move south. Or again, a memorable 
expedition, some few decades ago, started once or twice, was 
becalmed in Vakuta, had to give a heavy payment to a wind 
magician in the village of Okinai, to provide them with a 
propitious northerly wind, and then, sailing South at last, met 
with a vineylida, one of the dreadful perils of the sea, a live stone 
which jumps from the bottom of the sea at a canoe. But in 
spite of all this, they persevered, reached Dobu in safety, and 
made a successful return. 

Thus we see that, from a sociological point of view, the 
uvalaku is an enterprise partially financed by the toll uvalaku, 
and therefore redounding to his credit, and bringing him 
honour ; while the obligation imposed on others by the food 
distributed to them, is to carry on the expedition to a 
successful end. 

It is rather puzzling to find that, although everyone is 
eager for the expedition, although they all enjoy it equally 
and satisfy their ambition and increase their wealth by it, yet 
the element of compulsion and obligation is introduced into it ; 
for we are not accustomed to the idea of pleasure having to be 
forced on people. None the less, the uvalaku is not an isolated 
feature, for in almost all tribal enjoyments and festive enter- 
tainments on a big scale, the same principle obtains. The 
master of the festivities, by an initial distribution of food, 
imposes an obligation on the others, to carry through dancing, 
sports, or games of the season. And indeed, considering the 
ease with which native enthusiasms flag, with which jealousies, 
envies and quarrels creep in, and destroy the unanimity of 
social amusements, the need for compulsion from without to 
amuse oneself appears not so preposterous as at first sight. 

I have said that an uvalaku expedition is distinguished 


from an ordinary one, in so far also as the full ceremonial of the 
Kula has to be observed. Thus all the canoes must be either 
new or relashed, and without exception they must be also re- 
painted and redecorated. The full ceremonial launching, tasa- 
soria, and the presentation, kabigodoya, are carried out with 
every detail only when the Kula takes the form of an uvalaku. 
The pig or pigs killed in the village before departure are also 
a special feature of the competitive Kula. So is the kayguya'u 
ceremonial distribution held on Muwa, just at the point of the 
proceedings at which we have now arrived. The tanarere, a 
big display of vaygu'a and comparison of the individual 
acquisitions at the end of an expedition, is another ceremonial 
feature of the uvalaku and supplies some of the competitive 
element. There is also competition as to the speed, qualities 
and beauties of the canoes at the beginning of such an expe- 
dition. Some of the communities who present their vaygu'a to 
an uvalaku expedition vie with one another, as to who will give 
most, and in fact the element of emulation or competition runs 
right through the proceedings. In the following chapters, I 
shall have, in several more points, occasion to distinguish an 
uvalaku from an ordinary Kula sailing. 

It must be added at once that, although all these ceremonial 
features are compulsory only on an uvalaku sailing, and although 
only then are they one and all of them unfailingly observed, 
some and even all may also be kept during an ordinary Kula 
expedition, especially if it happens to be a somewhat bigger one. 
The same refers to the various magical rites that is to say the 
most important ones which although performed on every 
Kula expedition, are carried out with more punctilio on an 

Finally, a very important distinctive feature is the rule, 
that no vaygu'a can be carried on the outbound sailing of an 
uvalaku. It must not be forgotten that a Kula overseas expe- 
dition sails, in order mainly to receive gifts and not to give them, 
and on an uvalaku this rule is carried to its extreme, so that no 
Kula valuables whatever may be given by the visiting party. 
The natives sailing from Sinaketa to Dobu on ordinary Kula 
may carry a few armshells with them, but when they sail on a 
.ceremonial competitive uvalaku, no armshell is ever taken. 
For it must be remembered that Kula exchanges, as has been 
explained in Chapter III, never take place simultaneously. 


It is always a gift followed after a lapse of time by a counter- 
gift. Now on a uvalaku the natives would receive in Dobu a 
certain amount of gifts, which, within a year or so, would be 
returned to the Dobuans, when these pay a visit to Sinaketa. 
But there is always a considerable amount of valuables which 
the Dobuans owe to the Sinaketans, so that when now the 
Sinaketans go to Dobu, they will claim also these gifts due to 
them from previous occasions. All these technicalities of Kula 
exchange will become clearer in one of the subsequent chapters 
(Chapter XIV). 

To sum up, the uvalaku is a ceremonial and competitive 
expedition. Ceremonial it is, in so far as it is connected with the 
special initial distribution of food, given by the master of the 
uvalaku. It is also ceremonial in that all the formalities of the 
Kula are kept rigorously and without exception, for in a sense 
every Kula sailing expedition is ceremonial. Competitive it is 
mainly in that at the end of it all the acquired articles are 
compared and counted. With this also the prohibition to 
carry vaygu'a, is connected, so as to give everyone an even 


Returning now to the Sinaketan fleet assembled at Muwa, 
as soon as they have arrived there, that is, some time about 
noon, they proceed to the ceremonial distribution. Although 
the toll uvalaku is master of ceremonies, in this case he as a 
rule sits and watches the initial proceedings from a distance. 
A group of his relatives or friends of lesser rank busy them- 
selves with the work. It might be better perhaps here to give 
a more concrete account, since it is always difficult to visualise 
exactly how such things will proceed. 

This was brought home to me when in March, 1918, 1 assisted 
at these initial stages of the Kula in the Amphlett Islands. 
The natives had been preparing for days for departure, and on 
the final date, I spent the whole morning observing and 
photographing the loading and trimming of the canoes, the 
farewells, and the setting out of the fleet. In the evening, 
after a busy day, as it was a full-moon night, I went for a long 
pull in a dinghey. Although in the Trobriands I had had 
accounts of the custom of the first halt, yet it gave me a sur- 
prise when on rounding a rocky point I came upon the whole 


crowd of Gumasila natives, who had departed on the Kula that 
morning, sitting in full-moon light on a beach, only a few miles 
from the village which they had left with so much to-do some 
ten hours before. With the fairly strong wind that day, I was 
thinking of them as camping at least half way to the Trobriands, 
on one of the small sand banks some twenty miles North. 
I went and sat for a moment among the morose and unfriendly 
Amphlett Islanders, who, unlike the Trobrianders, distinctly 
resented the inquisitive and blighting presence of an Ethno- 

To return to our Sinaketan party, we can imagine the chiefs 
sitting high up on the shore under the gnarled, broad-leafed 
branches of the shady trees. They might perhaps be resting in 
one group, each with a few attendants, or else every headman 
and chief near his own canoe, To'udawada silently chewing 
betel-nut, with a heavy and bovine dignity, the excitable 
Koutauya chattering in a high pitched voice with some of his 
grown-up sons, among whom there are two or three of the finest 
men in Sinaketa. Further on, with a smaller group of 
attendants, sits the infamous Sinakadi, in conference with his 
successor to chieftainship, his sister's son, Gomaya, also a 
notorious scoundrel. On such occasions it is good form for 
chiefs not to busy themselves among the groups, nor to survey 
the proceedings, but to keep an aloof and detached attitude. 
In company with other notables, they discuss in the short, 
jerky sentences which make native languageb so difficult to 
follow, the arrangements and prospects of the Kula, making 
now and then a mythological reference, forecasting the 
weather, and discussing the merits of the canoes. 

In the meantime, the henchmen of the toli'uvalaku, his 
sons, his younger brothers, his relatives-in-law, prepare the 
distribution. As a rule, either To'udawada or Koutauya would 
be the toli'uvalaku. The one who at the given time has more 
wealth on hand and prospects of receiving more vaygu'a, would 
take over the dignity and the burdens, Sinakadi is much less 
wealthy, and probably it would be an exception for him and 
his predecessors and successors to play the part. The minor 
headmen of the other compound villages of Sinaketa would 
never fill the role. 

Whoever is the master of the expedition for the time being 
will have brought over a couple of pigs, which will now be laid 


on the beach and admired by the members of the expedition. 
Soon some fires are lit, and the pigs, with a long pole thrust 
through their tied feet, are hung upside down over the fires. A 
dreadful squealing fills the air and delights the hearers. After 
the pig has been singed to death, or rather, into insensibility, 
it is taken off and cut open. Specialists cut it into appropriate 
parts, ready for the distribution. Yams, taro, coco-nuts and 
sugar cane have already been put into big heaps, as many as 
there are canoes that is, nowadays, eight. On these heaps, 
some hands of ripe bananas and some betel-nut bunches are 
placed. On the ground, beside them, on trays of plaited 
coco-nut leaves, the lumps of meat are displayed. All this 
food has been provided by the toli'uvalaku, who previously has 
received as contributions towards it special presents, both from 
his own and from his wife's kinsmen. In fact, if we try to draw 
out all the strands of gifts and contributions connected with 
such a distribution we would find that it is spun round into 
such an intricate web, that even the lengthy account of the 
foregoing chapter does not quite do it justice. 

After the chief's helpers have arranged the heaps, they go 
over them, seeing that the apportionment is correct, shifting 
some of the food here and there, and memorising to whom each 
heap will be given. Often in the final round, the toli'uvalaku 
inspects the heaps himself, and then returns to his former seat. 
Then comes the culminating act of the distribution. One of 
the chief's henchmen, always a man of inferior rank, accom- 
panied by the chief's helpers, walks down the row of heaps, and 
at each of them screams out in a very loud voice : 

" 0, Siyagana, thy heap, there, O Siyagana, O ! " At 
the next one he calls the name of another canoe : " O 
Gumawora, thy heap, there ! O Gumawora ! " 

He goes thus over all the heaps, allotting each one to a 
canoe. After that is finished, some of the younger boys of each 
canoe go and fetch their heap. This is brought to their fire, the 
meat is roasted, and the yams, the sugar cane and betel-nut 
distributed among the crew, who presently sit down and eat, 
each group by itself. We see that, although the toli'uvalaku is 
responsible for the feast, and receives from the natives all the 
credit for it, his active part in the proceedings is a small one, 
and it is more nominal than real. On such occasions it would 


perhaps be incorrect to call him ' master of ceremonies/ although 
he assumes this role, as we shall see, on other occasions. 
Nevertheless, for the natives, he is the centre of the proceedings. 
His people do all the work there is to be done, and in certain 
cases he would be referred to for a decision, on some question of 

After the meal is over, the natives rest, chew betel-nut 
and smoke, looking across the water towards the setting sun 
it is now probably late in the afternoon towards where, 
above the moored canoes, which rock and splash in the shallows, 
there float the faint silhouettes of the mountains. These are the 
distant Koya, the high hills in the d'Entrecasteaux and 
Amphletts, to which the elder natives have often already 
sailed, and of which the younger have heard so many times in 
myth, tales and magical spells. Kula conversations will 
predominate on such occasions, and names of distant partners, 
and personal names of specially valuable vaygu'a will punctuate 
the conversation and make it very obscure to those not initiated 
into the technicalities and historical traditions of the Kula. 
Recollections how a certain big spondylus necklace passed a 
couple of years ago through Sinaketa, how So-and-so handed it 
to So-and-so in Kiriwina, who again gave it to one of his 
partners in Kitava (all the personal names of course being 
mentioned) and how it went from there to Woodlark Island, 
where its traces become lost such reminiscences lead to 
conjectures as to where the necklace might now be, and whether 
there is a chance of meeting it in Dobu. Famous exchanges are 
cited, quarrels over Kula grievances, cases in which a man was 
killed by magic for his too successful dealings in the Kula, 
are told one after the other, and listened to with never failing 
interest. The younger men amuse themselves perhaps with 
less serious discussions about the dangers awaiting them 
on the sea, about the fierceness of the witches and dread- 
ful beings in the Koya, while many a young Trobriander 
would be warned at this stage of the unaccommodating 
attitude of the women in Dobu, and of the fierceness of 
their men folk. 

After nightfall a number of small fires are lit on the beach. 
The stiff pandanus mats, folded in the middle, are put over 
each sleeper so as to form a small roof, and the whole crowd 
settle down for the night. 



Next morning, if there is a fair wind, or a hope of it, the 
natives are up very early, and all are feverishly active. Some 
fix up the masts and rigging of the canoes, doing it much more 
thoroughly and carefully than it was done on the previous 
morning, since there may be a whole day's sailing ahead of them 
perhaps with a strong wind, and under dangerous conditions. 
After all is done, the sails ready to be hoisted, the various ropqs 
put into good trim, all the members of the crew sit at their 
posts, and each canoe waits some few yards from the beach for 
its toliwaga (master of the canoe). He remains on shore, 
in order to perform one of the several magical rites which, at 
this stage of sailing, break through the purely matter-of-fact 
events. All these rites of magic are directed towards the 
canoes, making them speedy, seaworthy and safe. In the 
first rite, some leaves are medicated by the toliwaga as he squats 
over them on the beach and recites a formula. The wording of 
this indicates that it is a speed magic, and this is also the 
explicit statement of the natives. 


In this spell, the flying fish and the jumping gar fish 
are invoked at the beginning. Then the toliwaga urges his 
canoe to fly at its bows and at its stern. Then, in a long 
tapwana, he repeats a word signifying the magical impart- 
ing of speed, and with the names of the various parts of the 
canoe. The last part runs : " The canoe flies, the canoe 
flies in the morning, the canoe flies at sunrise, the canoe 
flies like a flying witch/ 1 ending up with the onomatopoetic 
words " Saydidi, tatata, numsa" which represent the 
flapping of pandanus streamers in the wind, or as others 
say, the noises made by the flying witches, as they move 
through the air on a stormy night. 

After having uttered this spell into the leaves, the toliwaga 
gives them to one of the usagelu (members of the crew), who, 
wading round the waga, rubs with them first the dobwana, 
' head ' of the canoe, then the middle of its body, and finally its 
u'ula (basis). Proceeding round on the side of the outrigger, 
he rubs the ' head ' again. It may be remembered here that, 
with the native canoes, fore and aft in the sailing sense are 
interchangeable, since the canoe must sail having always the 


wind on its outrigger side, and it often has to change stern to 
bows. But standing on a canoe so that the outrigger is on the 
left hand, and the body of the canoe on the right, a native will 
call the end of the canoe in front of him its head (dabwana), 
and that behind, its basis (u'ula). 

After this is over, the toliwaga enters the canoe, the sail is 
hoisted, and the canoe rushes ahead. Now two or three 
pandanus streamers which had previously been medicated in 
the village by the toliwaga are tied to the rigging, and to the 
mast. The following is the spell which had been said over 
them : 


" Bora'i, Bora'i (a mythical name). Bora'i flies, it will 
fly ; Bora'i Bora'i, Bora'i stands up, it will stand up. 
In company with Bora'i sidididi. Break through your 
passage in Kadimwatu, pierce through thy Promontory of 
Salamwa. Go and attach your pandanus streamer in 
Salamwa, go and ascend the slope of Loma." 

" Lift up the body of my canoe ; its body is like floating 
gossamer, its body is like dry banana leaf, its body is like 

There is a definite association in the minds of the natives 
between the pandanus streamers, with which they usually 
decorate mast, rigging and sail, and the speed of the canoe. 
The decorative effect of the floating strips of pale, glittering, 
yellow is indeed wonderful, when the speed of the canoe makes 
them flutter in the wind. Like small banners of some stiff, 
golden fabric they envelope the sail and rigging with light, 
colour and movement. 

The pandanus streamers, and especially their trembling, are 
a definite characteristic of Trobriand culture (see Plate XXIX). 
In some of their dances, the natives use long, bleached ribbons 
of pandanus, which the men hold in both hands, and set 
a-flutter while they dance. To do this well is one of the main 
achievements of a brilliant artist On many festive occasions 
the bisila (pandanus streamers) are tied to houses on poles for 
decoration. They are thrust into armlets and belts as per- 
sonal ornaments. The vaygua (valuables) when prepared for 
the Kula, are decorated with strips of bisila. In the Kula a 
chief will send to some distant partner a bisila streamer over 
which a special spell has been recited, and this will make the 


partner eager to bestow valuables on the sender. As we saw, 
a broad bisila streamer is attached to the canoe oi&toli'uvalaku 
as his badge of honour. The flying witches (mulukwausi) are 
supposed to use pandanus streamers in order to acquire speed 
and levitation in their nightly flights through the air. 

After the magical pandanus strips have been tied to the 
rigging, beside the non-magical, purely ornamental ones, the 
toliwaga sits at the veva rope, the sheet by which the sail is 
extended to the wind, and moving it to and fro he recites a 


Two verbs signifying magical influence are repeated 
with the prefix bo which implies the conception of 

I ritual ' or ' sacred ' or ' being tabooed/* Then the 
toliwaga says : "I shall treat my canoe magically in its 
middle part, I shall treat it in its body. I shall take my 
butia (flower wreath), of the sweet-scented flowers. I 
shall put it on the head of my canoe." 

Then a lengthy middle strophe is recited, in which all 
the parts of a canoe are named with two verbs one after 
the other. The verbs are : " To wreathe the canoe in a 
ritual manner," and " to paint it red in a ritual manner." 
The prefix bo-, added to the verbs, has been here translated, 

II in a ritual manner."* 

The spell ends by a conclusion similar to that of many 
other canoe formulae, " My canoe, thou art like a whirl- 
wind, like a vanishing shadow ! Disappear in the 
distance, become like mist, avaunt ! " 

These are the three usual rites for the sake of speed at the 
beginning of the journey. If the canoe remains slow, however, 
an auxiliary rite is performed ; a piece of dried banana leaf is 
put between the gunwale and one of the inner frame sticks of 
the canoe, and a spell is recited over it. After that, they beat 
both ends of the canoe with this banana leaf. If the canoe is 

* The prefix bo has three different etymological derivations, each carry- 
ing its own shade of meaning. First, it may be the first part of the word 
bomala, in which case, its meaning will be " ritual" or "sacred." Secondly, it 
may be denved from the word 6w'a, areca-nut, a substance very often used and 
mentioned in magic, both because it is a narcotic, and a beautiful, vermilion 
dye. Thirdly, the prefix may be a derivation from butia, the sweet scented 
flower made into wreaths, in which case it would usually be bway, but sometimes 
might become bo-, and would carry the meaning of "festive," "decorated." 
To a native, who does not look upon a spell as an ethnological document, but 
as an instrument of magical power, the prefix probably conveys all three mean- 
ings at once, and the word " ritual " covers best all these three meanings. 


still heavy, and lags behind the others, a piece of kuleya (cooked 
and stale yam) is put on a mat, and the toliwaga medicates it 
with a spell which transfers the heaviness to the yam. The 
spell here recited is the same one which we met when the 
heavy log was being pulled into the village. The log was then 
beaten with a bunch of grass, accompanied by the recital of the 
spell, and then this bunch was thrown away.* In this'case the 
piece of yam which has taken on the heaviness of the canoe is 
thrown overboard. Sometimes, however, even this is of no 
avail. The toliwaga then seats himself on the platform next to 
the steersman, and utters a spell over a piece of coco-nut husk, 
which is thrown into the water. This rite, called Bisiboda 
patile is a piece of evil-magic (bulubwalata) , intended to keep 
all the other canoes back. If that does not help, the natives 
conclude that some taboos pertaining to the canoe might have 
been broken, and perhaps the toliwaga may feel some misgivings 
regarding the conduct of his wife or wives. 

See Division II of Chapter V. 



Now at last the Kula expedition is properly set going. The 
canoes are started on a long stage, before them the sea-arm 
of Pilolu, stretching between the Trobriands and the d'Entre- 
casteaux. On the North, this portion of the sea is bounded 
by the Archipelago of the Trobriands, that is, by the islands of 
Vakuta, Boyowa and Kayleula, joining in the west on to the 
scattered belt of the Lousan$ay Islands. On the east, a long 
submerged reef runs from the southern end of Vakuta to the 
Amphletts, forming an extended barrier to sailing, but affording 
little protection from the eastern winds and seas. In the 
South, this barrier links on to the Amphletts, which together 
with the Northern coast of Fergusson and Goodenough, form 
the Southern shore of Pilolu To the West, Pilolu opens up 
into the seas between the mainland of New Guinea and the 
Bismarck Archipelago. In fact, what the natives designate by 
the name of Pilolu is nothing else but the enormous basin of the 
Lousanay Lagoon, the largest coral atoll in the world. To the 
natives, the name of Pilolu is full of emotional associations, 
drawn from magic and myth ; it is connected with the experi- 
ences of past generations, told by the old men round the village 
fires and with adventure personally lived through, 

As the Kula adventurers speed along with filled sails, the 
shallow Lagoon of the Trobriands soon falls away behind ; 
the dull green waters, sprinkled with patches of brown where 
seaweed grows high and rank, and lit up here and there with 
spots of bright emerald where a shallow bottom of clean sand 
shines through, give place to a deeper sea of strong green hue. 
The low strip of land, which surrounds the Trobriand Lagoon in 
a wide sweep, thins away and dissolves in the haze, and before 
them the southern mountains rise higher and higher. On a 


clear day, these are visible even from the Trobriands. The 
neat outlines of the Amphletts stand diminutive, yet firmer 
and more material, against the blue silhouettes of the higher 
mountains behind. These, like a far away cloud are draped 
in wreaths of cumuli, almost always clinging to their summits. 
The nearest of them, Koyatabu the mountain of the taboo * 
on the North end of Fergusson Island, a slim, somewhat tilted 
pyramid, forms a most alluring beacon, guiding the mariners 
due South, To the right of it, as we look towards the South- 
West, a broad, bulky mountain, the Koyabwaga'u mountain 
of the sorcerers marks the North-western corner of Fergusson 
Island. The mountains on Goodenough Island are visible only 
in very clear weather, and then very faintly. 

Within a day or two, these disembodied, misty forms are to 
assume what for the Trobrianders seems marvellous shape and 
enormous bulk. They are to surround the Kula traders with 
their solid walls of precipitous rock and green jungle, furrowed 
with deep ravines and streaked with racing water-courses. 
The Trobrianders will sail deep, shaded bays, resounding with 
the, to them unknown, voice of waterfalls ; with the weird 
cries of strange birds which never visit the Trobriands, such as 
the laughing of the kookooburra (laughing jackass), and the 
melancholy call of the South Sea crow. The sea will change 
its colour once more, become pure blue, and beneath its trans- 
parent waters, a marvellous world of multi-coloured coral, 
fish and seaweed will unfold itself, a world which, through a 
strange geographical irony, the inhabitants of a coral island 
hardly ever can see at home, and must come to this volcanic 
region to discover. 

In these surroundings, they will find also wonderful, heavy, 
compact stones of various colours and shapes, whereas at home 
the only stone is the insipid, white, dead coral Here they can 
see, besides many types of granite and basalt and volcanic tuff, 
specimens of black obsidian, with its sharp edges and metallic 
ring, and sites full of red and yellow ochre. Besides big hills of 
volcanic ash, they will behold hot springs boiling up periodi- 
cally. Of all these marvels the young Trobriander hears tales, 
and sees samples brought back to his country, and there is no 

* The word tabu, in the meaning of taboo prohibition is used in its 
verbal form in the language of the Trobriands, but not very often. Tho noun 
"prohibition," "sacred thing," is always bomala, used with suffixed personal 


doubt that it is for him a wonderful experience to find himself 
amongst them for the first time, and that afterwards he eagerly 
seizes every opportunity that offers to sail again to the Koya. 
Thus the landscape now before them is a sort of promised land, 
a country spoken of in almost legendary tone. 

And indeed the scenery here, on the borderland of the two 
different worlds, is singularly impressive. Sailing away from 
the Trobriands on my last expedition, I had to spend two days, 
weatherbound, on a small sandbank covered with a few pan- 
danus trees, about midway between the Trobriands and the 
Amphletts. A darkened sea lay to the North, big thunder- 
clouds hanging over where I knew there was the large flat island 
of Boyowa the Trobriands. To the South, against a clearer 
sky, were the abrupt forms of the mountains, scattered over 
half of the horizon. The scenery seemed saturated with myth 
and legendary tales, with the strange adventures, hopes and 
fears of generations of native sailors. On this sandbank they 
had often camped, when becalmed or threatened with bad 
weather. On such an island, the great mythical hero, Kasab- 
waybwayreta stopped, and was marooned by his companions, 
only to escape through the sky Here again a mythical canoe 
once halted, in order to be re-caulked. As I sat there, looking 
towards the Southern mountains, so clearly visible, yet so in- 
accessible, I realised what must be the feelings of the 
Trobrianders, desirous to reach the Koya, to meet the strange 
people, and to kula with them, a desire made perhaps even more 
acute by a mixture of fear. For there, to the west of the 
Amphletts, they see the big bay of Gabu, where once the crews of 
a whole fleet of Trobriand canoes were killed and eaten by the 
inhabitants of unknown villages, in attempting to kula with them. 
And stories are also told of single canoes, drifted apart from 
the fleet and cast against the northern shore of Fergusson 
Island, of which all the crew perished at the hands of the 
cannibals. There are also legends of some inexperienced 
natives, who, visiting the neighbourhood of Deyde'i and 
arriving at the crystal water in the big stone basins there, 
plunged in, to meet a dreadful death in the almost boiling pool. 

But though the legendary dangers on the distant shores 
may appall the native imagination, the perils of actual sailing 
are even more real. The sea over which they travel is seamed 
with reefs, studded with sandbanks and coral rocks awash. 


And though in fair weather these are not so dangerous to a 
canoe as to a European boat, yet they are bad enough. The 
main dangers of native sailing, however, lie in the helplessness 
of a canoe. As we have said before, it cannot sail close to the 
wind, and therefore cannot beat. If the wind comes round, the 
canoe has to turn and retrace its course. This is very un- 
pleasant, but not necessarily dangerous. If, however, the 
wind drops, and the canoe just happens to be in one of the 
strong tides, which run anything between three and five knots, 
or if it becomes disabled, and makes leeway at right angles to 
its course, the situation becomes dangerous. To the West, 
there lies the open sea, and once far out there, the canoe would 
have slender chances of ever returning. To the East, there 
runs the reef, on which in heavy weather a native canoe would 
surely be smashed. In May, 1918, a Dobuan canoe, returning 
home a few days after the rest of the fleet, was caught by a 
strong South-Easterly wind, so strong that it had to give up 
its course, and make North-West to one of the Lousangay 
Islands. It had been given up as lost, when in August it came 
back with a chance blow of the North-Westerly wind. It had 
had, however, a narrow escape in making the small island. 
Had it been blown further West, it would never have reached 
land at all. 

There exist other tales of lost canoes, and it is a wonder 
that accidents are not more frequent, considering the con- 
ditions under which they have to sail. Sailing has to be done, 
so to speak, on straight lines across the sea. Once they 
deviate from this course, all sorts of dangers crop up. Not 
only that, but they must sail between fixed points on the land. 
For, and this of course refers to the olden days, if they had to 
go ashore, anywhere but in the district of a friendly tribe, the 
perils which met them were almost as bad as those of reefs and 
sharks. If the sailors missed the friendly villages of the 
Amphletts and of Dobu, everywhere else they would meet with 
extermination Even nowadays, though the danger of being 
killed would be smaller perhaps not absolutely non-existent 
yet the natives would feel very uncomfortable at the idea of 
landing in a strange district, fearing not only death by violence, 
but even more by evil magic. Thus, as the natives sail across 
Pilolu, only very small sectors of their horizon present a safe 
goal for their journey. 


On the East, indeed, beyond the dangerous barrier reef, 
there is a friendly horizon, marked for them by the Marshall 
Bennett Islands, and Woodlark, the country known under the 
term Omuyuwa. To the South, there is the Koya, also known 
as the land of the kinana, by which name the natives of the 
d'Entrecasteaux and the Amphletts are known generically. 
But to the South- West and West there is the deep open sea 
(bebega), and beyond that, lands inhabited by tailed people, 
and by people with wings of whom very little more is known. 
To the North, beyond the reef of small coral islands, lying off the 
Trobriands, there are two countries, Kokopawa and 
Kaytalugi. Kokopawa is peopled with ordinary men and 
women, who walk about naked, and are great gardeners. 
Whether this country corresponds to the South coast of New 
Britain, where people really are without any clothing, it would 
be difficult to say. 

The other country, Kaytalugi, is a land of women only, in 
which no man can survive. The women who live there are 
beautiful, big and strong, and they walk about naked, and 
with their bodily hair unshaven (which is contrary to the 
Trobriand custom). They are extremely dangerous to any 
man through the unbounded violence of their passion. The 
natives never tire of describing graphically how such women 
would satisfy their sensuous lust, if they got hold of some 
luckless, shipwrecked man. No one could survive, even for a 
short time, the amorous yet brutal attacks of these women. 
The natives compare this treatment to that customary at the 
yousa, the orgiastic mishandling of any man, caught at certain 
stages of female communal labour in Boyowa (cf. Chapter II, 
Division II). Not even the boys born on this island of 
Kaytalugi can survive a tender age. It must be remembered 
the natives see no need for male co-operation in continuing the 
race. Thus the women propagate the race, although every 
male needs must come to an untimely end before he can become 
a man. 

None the less, there is a legend that some men from the 
village of Kaulagu, in eastern Boyowa, were blown in their 
canoe far North from the easterly course of a Kula expedition, 
and were stranded on the coast of Kaytalugi. There, having 
survived the first reception, they were apportioned individually 
and married. Having repaired their canoe, ostensibly for the 


sake of bringing some fish to their wives, one night they put 
food and water into it, and secretly sailed away. On their 
return to their own village, they found their women married to 
other men. However, such things never end tragically in the 
Trobriands. As soon as their rightful lords reappeared their 
women came back to them. Among other things these men 
brought to Boyowa a variety of banana called usikela, not 
known before. 


Returning again to our Kula party, we see that, in journey- 
ing across Pilolu, they move within the narrow confines of 
familiar sailing ground, surrounded on all sides both by real 
dangers and by lands of imaginary horrors. On their track, 
however, the natives never go out of sight of land, and in the 
event of mist or rain, they can always take sufficient bearings to 
enable them to make for the nearest sand-bank or island. 
This is never more than some six miles off, a distance which, 
should the wind have dropped, may even be reached by 

Another thing that also makes their sailing not so dangerous 
as one would imagine, is the regularity of the winds in this part 
of the world. As a rule, in each of the two main seasons, there 
is one prevailing direction of wind, which does not shift more 
than within some ninety degrees. Thus, in the dry season, 
from May to October, the trade wind blows almost incessantly 
from the South-East or South, moving sometimes to the North- 
East, but never beyond that As a matter of fact, however, 
this season, just because of the constancy of the wind, does not 
lend itself very well to native sailing. For although with this 
wind it is easy to sail from South to North, or East to West, 
it is impossible to retrace the course, and as the wind often 
blows for months without veering, the natives prefer to do their 
sailings between the seasons, or in the time when the monsoon 
blows. Between the seasons November, December or 
March and April the winds are not so constant, in fact they 
shift from one position on the compass to another. On the 
other hand, there is very seldom a strong blow at this time, and 
so this is the ideal season for sailing In the hot summer 
months, December till March, the monsoon blows from the 
North- West or South- West, less regularly than a trade wind, but 

1 If 




L] ' TJ 


,, 2 




often culminating in violent storms which almost always come 
from the North- West. Thus the two strong winds to be met in 
these seas come from definite directions, and this minimises the 
danger. The natives also as a rule are able to foretell a day or 
two beforehand the approach of a squall. Rightly or wrongly, 
they associate the strength of the North- Westerly gales with 
the phases of the moon 

There is, of course, a good deal of magic to make wind blow 
or to put it down. Like many other forms of magic, wind 
magic is localised in villages. The inhabitants of Simsim, the 
biggest village in the Lousan^ay Islands, and the furthest North- 
Westerly settlement of this district, are credited with the 
ability of controlling the North-Westerly wind, perhaps 
through association with their geographical position. Again, 
the control over the South-Easterly wind is granted to the 
inhabitants of Kitava, lying to the East of Boyowa. The 
Simsim people control all the winds which blow habitually 
during the rainy season, that is the winds on the western 
side of the compass, from North to South. The other half 
can be worked by the Kitavan spells. 

Many men in Boyowa have learnt both spells and they 
practise the magic. The spells are chanted broadcast into the 
wind, without any other ritual. It is an impressive spectacle to 
walk through a village, during one of the devastating gales, 
which always arise at night and during which people leave their 
huts and assemble in cleared spaces. They are afraid the 
wind may lift their dwellings off the ground, or uproot a tree 
which might injure them in falling, an accident which actually 
did happen a year or two ago in Wawela, killing the chief's 
wife. Through the darkness from the doors of some of the huts, 
and from among the huddled groups, there resound loud voices, 
chanting, in a penetrating sing-song, the spells for abating the 
force of the wind. On such occasions, feeling myself somewhat 
nervous, I was deeply impressed by this persistent effort of 
frail, human voice, fraught with deep belief, pitting itself so 
feebly against the monotonous, overpowering force of the wind. 

Taking the bearing* by sight, and helped by the uniformity 
of winds, the natives have no need of even the most elementary 
knowledge of navigation. Barring accidents they never have 
to direct their course by the stars. Of these, they know certain 
outstanding constellations, sufficient to indicate for them the 


direction, should they need it. They have names for the 
Pleiades, for Orion, for the Southern Cross, and they also 
recognise a few constellations of their own construction. Their 
knowledge of the stars, as we have mentioned already in 
Chapter II, Division V, is localised in the village of Wawela, 
where it is handed over in the maternal line of the chiefs of the 

In order to understand better the customs and problems of 
sailing, a few words must be said about the technique of 
managing a canoe. As we have said before, the wind must 
always strike the craft, on the outrigger side, so the sailing canoe 
is always tilted with its float raised, and the platform slanting 
towards the body of the canoe. This makes it necessary for 
it to be able to change bows and stern at will ; for imagine 
that a canoe going due South, has to sail with a North-Easterly 
wind, then the lamina (outrigger) must be on the left hand, and 
the canoe sails with what the natives call its " head " forward. 
Now imagine that the wind turns to the North- West. Should 
this happen in a violent squall, without warning, the canoe 
would be at once submerged But, as such a change would be 
gradual, barring accidents, the natives could easily cope with it. 
The mast, which is tied at the fourth cross-pole (ri'u) from 
the temporary bows of the canoe, would be unbound, the canoe 
would be turned 180 degrees around, so that its head would now 
form the stern, its u'ula (foundation) would face South, and 
become its bows, and the platform would be to our right, 
facing West. The mast would be attached again to the fourth 
cross-pole (ri'u), from the u'ula end, the sail hoisted, and the 
canoe would glide along with the wind striking it again on its 
outrigger side, but having changed bows to stern (see Plate XLI). 

The natives have a set of nautical expressions to describe 
the various operations of changing mast, of trimming the sail, 
of paying out the sheet rope, of shifting the sail, so that it stands 
up with its bottom end high, and its tip touching the canoe, or 
else letting it lie with both boom and gaff almost horizontal. 
And they have definite rules as to how the various manoeuvres 
should be carried out, according to the strength of the wind, 
and to the quarter on which it strikes the canoe. They have 
four expressions denoting a following wind, wind striking 
the outrigger beam, wind striking the canoe from the katala 
(built-out body), and wind striking the canoe on the 


outrigger side close to the direction of sailing. There is no point, 
however, in adducing this native terminology here, as we shall 
not any further refer to it ; it is enough to know that they have 
got definite rules, and means of expressing them, with regard 
to the handling of a canoe. 

It has been often remarked here, that the Trobriand canoes 
cannot sail close to the wind. They are very light, and 
shallow, and have very little water board, giving a small resist- 
ance against making lee-way. I think that this is also the 
reason, why they need two men to do the steering for the 
steering oars act as lee-boards. One of the men wields a big, 
elongated steering oar, called kuriga. He sits at the stern, of 
course, in the body of the canoe. The other man handles a 
smaller steering paddle, leaf-shaped, yet with a bigger blade 
than the paddling oars ; it is called viyoyu. He sits at the 
stern end of the platform, and does the steering through the 
sticks of the pitapatile (platform). 

The other working members of the crew are the man at the 
sheet, the tokwabila veva, as he is called, who has to let out the 
veva or pull it in, according as the wind shifts and varies in 

Another man, as a rule, stands in the bows of the ship on 
the look-out, and if necessary, has to climb the mast in order 
to trim the rigging. Or again, he would have to bale the 
water from time to time, as this always leaks through, or 
splashes into the canoe. Thus four men are enough to man a 
canoe, though usually the functions of the baler and the man 
on the look-out and at the mast are divided. 

When the wind drops, the men have to take to the small, 
leaf-shaped paddles, while one, as a rule, wields a pulling oar. 
But in order to give speed to a heavy masawa canoe, at least ten 
men would have to paddle and pull. As we shall see, on 
certain ceremonial occasions, the canoes have to be propelled 
by paddling, for instance when they approach their final destina- 
tion, after having performed the great mwasila magic. When 
they arrive at a halting place, the canoes, if necessary, are 
beached. As a rule, however, the heavily loaded canoes on a 
Kula expedition, would be secured by both mooring and 
anchoring, according to the bottom. On muddy bottoms, such 
as that of the Trobriand Lagoon, a long stick would be thrust 
into the slime, and one end of the canoe lashed to it. From the 


other, a heavy stone, tied with a rope, would be thrown down 
as an anchor. Over a hard, rocky bottom, the anchor stone 
alone is used. 

It can be easily understood that with such craft, and 
with such limitations in sailing, there are many real dangers 
which threaten the natives. If the wind is too strong, and the 
sea becomes too rough, a canoe may not be able to* follow 
its course, and making lee-way, or even directly running befor^ 
the wind, it may be driven into a quarter where there is no 
landfall to be made, or from where at best there is no returning 
at that season. This is what happened to the Dobuan boat men- 
tioned before. Or else, a canoe becalmed and seized by the tide 
may not be able to make its way by means of paddling. Or in 
stormy weather, it may be smashed on rocks and sandbanks, 
or even unable to withstand the impact of waves. An open 
craft like a native canoe easily fills with sea water, and, 
in a heavy rain-storm, with rain water. In a calm sea this is not 
very dangerous, for the wooden canoe does not sink ; even if 
swamped, the water can be baled out and the canoe floats up. 
But in rough weather, a water-logged canoe loses its buoyancy 
and gets broken up. Last and not least, there is the danger of 
the canoe being pressed into the water, outrigger first, should 
the wind strike it on the opposite side. With so many real 
dangers around it, it is a marvellous thing, and to the credit of 
native seamanship, that accidents are comparatively rare. 

We now know about the crew of the canoe and the different 
functions which every man has to fulfil. Remembering what 
has been said in Chapter IV, Division V, about the sociological 
division of functions in sailing, we can visualise concretely the 
craft with all its inmates, as it sails on the Pilolu ; the toliwaga 
usually sits near the mast in the compartment called kayguya'u. 
With him perhaps is one of his sons or young relatives, while 
another boy remains in the bows, near the conch-shell ready to 
sound it, whenever the occasion arises. Thus are employed 
the toliwaga and the dodo'u (small boys). The usagelu or 
members of the crew, some four or five strong, are each at his 
post, with perhaps one supernumerary to assist at any emer- 
gency, where the task would require it. On the platform are 
lounging some of the silasila, the youths not yet employed in 
any work, and not participating in the Kula, but there for their 
pleasure, and to learn how to manage a boat (see Plate XL). 



All these people have not only special posts and modes of 
occupation assigned to them, but they have also to keep certain 
rules. The canoe on a Kula expedition, is surrounded by 
taboos, and many observances have to be strictly kept, else 
this or that might go wrong. Thus it is not allowed to ' point 
to objects with the hand ' (yosala yamada), or those who do it 
will become sick. A new canoe has many prohibitions can- 
nected with it, which are called bomala wayugo (the taboos of 
the lashing creeper). Eating and drinking are not allowed in a 
new canoe except after sunset. The breaking of this taboo 
would make the canoe very slow. On a very quick waga this 
rule might perhaps be disregarded, especially if one of the 
young boys were hungry or thirsty. The toliwaga would then 
bale in some sea-water, pour it over one of the lashings of the 
creeper with the words : 

"I sprinkle thy eye, kudayuri creeper, so that our 
crew might eat." 

After that, he would give the boy something to eat and drink. 
Besides this eating and drinking taboo, on a new waga the 
other physiological needs must not be satisfied. In case of 
urgent necessity, a man jumps into the water, holding to one 
of the cross sticks of the outrigger, or if it were a small boy, he 
is lowered into the water by one of the elders. This taboo, if 
broken, would also make the canoe slow. These two taboos, 
however, as was said, are kept only on a new waga, that is on 
such a one which either sails for the first time, or else has been 
relashed and repainted before this trip. The taboos are in all 
cases not operative on the return journey. Women are not 
allowed to enter a new waga before it sails. Certain types of 
yams may not be carried on a canoe, which has been lashed 
with the rites of one of the wayugo magical systems. There 
are several systems of this magic (compare Chapter XVII, 
Division VII) and each has got its specific taboos. These 
last taboos are to be kept right through the sailing. On account 
of a magic to be described in the next chapter, the magic of 
safety as it might be called, a canoe has to be kept free from 
contact with earth, sand and stones. Hence the natives of 
Sinaketa do not beach their canoes if they can possibly 
avoid it. 


Among the specific taboos of the Kula, called bomala lilava 
(taboos of the magical bundle) there is a strict rule referring to 
the entering of a canoe. This must not be entered from any 
other point but on the vitovaria, that is, the front side of the 
platform, facing the mast. A native has to scale the platform 
at this place, then, crouching low, pass to the back or front, 
and there descend into the body of the canoe, or sit down* where 
he is. The compartment facing the lilava (magical bundle) is 
filled out with other trade goods. In front of it sits the chief, 
behind it the man who handles the sheets. The natives have 
special expressions which denote the various manners of illicitly 
entering a canoe, and, in some of the canoe exorcisms, these 
expressions are used to undo the evil effects of the breaking of 
these taboos. Other prohibitions, which the natives call the 
taboo of the mwasila, though not associated with the lilava, 
are those which do not allow of using flower wreaths, red 
ornaments, or red flowers in decorating the canoe or the bodies 
of the crew. The red colour of such ornaments is, according to 
native belief, magically incompatible with the aim of the 
expedition the acquisition of the red spondylus necklaces. 
Also, yams may not be roasted on the outward journey, while 
later on, in Dobu, no local food may be eaten, and the natives 
have to subsist on their own provisions, until the first Kula gifts 
have been received. 

There are, besides, definite rules, referring to the behaviour 
of one canoe towards another, but these vary considerably with 
the different villages. In Sinaketa, such rules are very few ; 
no fixed sequence is observed in the sailing order of the canoes, 
anyone of them can start first, and if one of them is swifter it 
may pass any of the others, even that of a chief. This, however, 
has to be done so that the slower canoe is not passed on the 
outrigger side. Should this happen, the transgressing canoe 
has to give the other one a peace offering (lula), because it has 
broken a bomala lilava, it has offended the magical bundle. 

There is one interesting point with regard to priorities in 
Sinaketa, and to describe this we must hark back to the 
subject of canoe-building and launching. One of the sub-clans 
of the Lukwasisiga clan, the Tolabwaga sub-clan, have the 
right of priority in all the successive operations of piecing 
together, lashing, caulking, and painting of their canoes. All 
these stages of building, and all the magic must first be done on 


the Tolabwaga canoe, and this canoe is also the first to be 
launched. Only afterwards, the chief's and the commoners' 
canoes may follow. A correct observance of this rule ' keeps 
the sea clean ' (imilakatile bwarita). If it were broken, and the 
chiefs had their canoes built or launched before the Tolabwaga, 
the Kula would not be successful. 

" We go to Dobu, no pig, no soulava necklace is given. 
We would tell the chiefs : ' Why have you first made your 
canoes ? The ancestor spirits have turned against us, 
for we have broken the old custom ! ' " 

Once at sea, however, the chiefs are first again, in theory at 
least, for in practice the swiftest canoe may sail first. 

In the sailing custom of Vakuta, the other South Boyowan 
community, who make the Kula with the Dobu, a sub-clan of 
the Lukwasisiga clan, called Tolawaga, have the privilege of 
priority in all the canoe-building operations. While at sea, 
they also retain one prerogative, denied to all the others : the 
man who steers with the smaller oar, the tokabina viyoyu, is 
allowed permanently to stand up on the platform. As the 
natives put it, 

" This is the sign of the Tolawaga (sub-clan) of Vakuta : 
wherever we see a man standing up at the viyoyu, we say : 
' there sails the canoe of the Tolawaga ! 

The greatest privileges, however, granted to a sub-clan in 
sailing are those which are to be found in Kavataria. This 
fishing and sailing community from the North shore of the 
Lagoon makes distant and dangerous sailings to the North- 
Western end of Fergusson Island. These expeditions for sago, 
betel-nut, and pigs will be described in Chapter XXI. Their 
sea customs, however, have to be mentioned here. 

The Kulutula sub-clan of the Lukwasisiga clan enjoy all the 
same privileges of priority in building, as the Tolabwaga and 
Tolawaga clans in the southern villages, only in a still higher 
degree. For their canoe has to pass each stage of con- 
struction on the first day, and only the day after can the others 
follow. This refers even to launching, the Kulutula canoe being 
launched one day, and on the next those of the chiefs and 
commoners. When the moment of starting arrives, the 
Kulutula canoe leaves the beach first, and during the sailing no 
one is allowed to pass ahead of it. When they arrive at the 


sandbanks or at an intermediate place in the Amphletts, the 
Kulutula have to anchor first, and first go ashore and make 
their camp ready. Only after that can the others follow. 
This priority expires at the final point of destination. When 
they arrive at the furthest Koya the Kulutula go ashore first, 
and they are the first to be presented with the welcoming gift 
of the ' foreigner ' (tokinana). He receives them with a-bunch 
of betel-nut, which he beats against the head of the canoe, 
till the nuts scatter. On the return journey, the Kulutula clan 
sink again into their naturally inferior position. 

It may be noted that all the three privileged sub-clans in 
the three villages belong to the Lukwasisiga clan, and that 
the names of two of them, Tolawaga, Tolabwaga have a striking 
resemblance to the word toliwaga, although these resemblances 
would have to be tested by some stricter methods of etymo- 
logical comparison, than I have now at my disposal. The fact 
that these clans, under special circumstances of sailing, resume 
what may be a lost superiority points to an interesting historical 
survival, The name Kulutula is undoubtedly identical with 
Kulutalu, which is an independent totemic clan in the Eastern 
Marshall Bennetts and in Woodlark.* 


Let us return now to our Sinaketan fleet, moving southwards 
along the barrier reef and sighting one small island after the 
other. If they did not start very early from Muwa and delay 
is one of the characteristics of native life and if they were not 
favoured with a very good wind, they would probably have 
to put in at one of the small sand islands, Legumatabu, 
Gabuwana or Yakum. Here, on the western side, sheltered 
from the prevalent trade winds, there is a diminutive lagoon, 
bounded by two natural breakwaters of coral reef running from 
the Northern and Southern ends of the island. Fires are lit on 
the clean, white sand, under the scraggy pandanus trees, and 
the natives boil their yam food and the eggs of the wild sea fowl, 
collected on the spot. When darkness closes in and the fires 
draw them all into a circle, the Kula talk begins again. 

* At a later date, I hope to work out certain historical hypotheses with 
regard to migrations and cultural strata in Eastern New Guinea. A consider- 
able number of independent indices seem to corroborate certain simple 
hypotheses as to the stratification of the various cultural elements. 


Let us listen to some such conversations, and try to steep 
ourselves in the atmosphere surrounding this handful of natives, 
cast for a while on to the narrow sandbank, far away from their 
homes, having to trust only to their frail canoes on the long 
journey which faces them. Darkness, the roar of surf breaking 
on the reef, the dry rattle of the pandanus leaves in the wind, 
all produce a frame of mind in which it is easy to believe in the 
dangers of witches and all the beings usually hidden away, but 
ready to creep out at some special moment of horror. The 
change of tone is unmistakable, when you get the natives to 
talk about these things on such an occasion, from the calm, 
often rationalistic way of treating them in broad daylight in an 
Ethnographer's tent. Some of the most striking revelations 
I have received of this side of native belief and psychology 
were made to me on similar occasions. Sitting on a lonely 
beach in Sanaroa, surrounded by a crew of Trobrianders, 
Dobuans, and a few local natives, I first heard the story of the 
jumping stones. On a previous night, trying to anchor oft 
Gumasila in the Amphletts, we had been caught by a violent 
squall, which tore one of our sails, and forced us to run before 
the wind, on a dark night, in the pouring rain Except for my- 
self, all the members of the crew saw clearly the flying witches 
in the form of a flame at the mast head. Whether this was St. 
Elmo's fire I could not judge, as I was in the cabin, seasick and 
indifferent to dangers, witches, and even ethnographic revela- 
tions. Inspired by this incident, my crew told me how this is, as 
a rule, a sign of disaster, how such a light appeared a few years 
ago in a boat, which was sunk almost on the same spot where the 
squall had caught us ; but fortunately all were saved. Starting 
from this, all sorts of dangers were spoken about, in a 
tone of deep conviction, rendered perfectly sincere by 
the experiences of the previous night, the surrounding 
darkness, and the difficulties of the situation for we had 
to repair our sail and again attempt the difficult landing in 
the Amphletts. 

I have always found that whenever natives are found under 
similar circumstances, surrounded by the darkness and the 
imminent possibility of danger, they naturally drift into a con- 
versation about the various things and beings into which the 
fears and apprehensions of generations have traditionally 


Thus if we imagine that we listen to an account of the perils 
and horrors of the seas, sitting round the fire at Yakum or 
Legumatabu, we do not stray from reality. One of those who 
are specially versed in tradition, and who love to tell a story, 
might refer to one of his own experiences ; or to a well-known 
case from the past, while others would chime in, and comment, 
telling their own stories. General statements of beliel would 
be given, while the younger men would listen to the tales so 
familiar, but always heard with renewed interest. 

They would hear about an enormous octopus (kwita) which 
lies in wait for canoes, sailing over the open seas. It is not an 
ordinary kwita of exceptional size, but a special one, so gigantic 
that it would cover a whole village with its body ; its arms are 
thick as coco-nut palms, stretching right across the sea. With 
typical exaggeration, the natives will say : ' ikanubwadi 
Pilolu,' . . . ' he covers up all the Pilolu ' (the sea-arm 
between the Trobriands and the Amphletts). Its proper home 
is in the East, ' o Muyuwa,' as the natives describe that region 
of sea and islands, where also it is believed some magic is known 
against the dreadful creature. Only seldom does it come to the 
waters between the Trobriands and Amphletts, but there are 
people who have seen it there. One of the old men of Sinaketa 
tells how, coming from Dobu, when he was quite young, he 
sailed in a canoe ahead of the fleet, some canoes being to the 
right and some to the left behind him. Suddenly from his 
canoe, they saw the giant kwita right in front of them. 
Paralysed with fear, they fell silent, and the man himself, 
getting up on the platform, by signs warned the other canoes of 
the danger. At once they turned round, and the fleet divided 
into two, took big bends in their course, and thus gave the 
octopus a wide berth. For woe to the canoe caught by the 
giant kwita ! It would be held fast, unable to move for days, 
till the crew, dying of hunger and thirst, would decide to 
sacrifice one of the small boys of their number. Adorned with 
valuables, he would be thrown overboard, and then the kwita, 
satisfied, would let go its hold of the canoe, and set it free. 
Once a native, asked why a grown-up would not be sacrificed 
on such an occasion, gave me the answer : 

" A grown-up man would not like it ; a boy has got no 
mind. We take him by force and throw him to the 


Another danger threatening a canoe on the high seas, is a 
big, special Rain, or Water falling from above, called 
Sinamatanoginogi. When in rain and bad weather a canoe, in 
spite of all the efforts to bale it out, fills with water, Sina- 
matanoginogi strikes it from above and breaks it up. Whether 
at the basis of this are the accidents with waterspouts, or cloud- 
bursts or simply extremely big waves breaking up the canoe, 
it is difficult to judge. On the whole, this belief is more easily 
accounted for than the previous one. 

The most remarkable of these beliefs is that there are big, 
live stones, which lie in wait for sailing canoes, run after them, 
jump up and smash them to pieces. Whenever the natives 
have reasons to be afraid of them, all the members of the crew 
will keep silence, as laughter and loud talk attracts them. 
Sometimes they can be seen, at a distance, jumping out of the 
sea or moving on the water. In fact I have had them pointed 
to me, sailing off Koyatabu, and although I could see nothing, 
the natives, obviously, genuinely believed they saw them. Of 
one thing I am certain, however, that there was no reef awash 
there for miles around. The natives also know quite well that 
they are different from any reefs or shallows, for the live stones 
move, and when they perceive a canoe will pursue it, break it 
up on purpose and smash the men. Nor would these expert 
fishermen ever confuse a jumping fish with anything else, 
though in speaking of the stones they may compare them to 
a leaping dolphin or stingaree. 

There are two names given to such stones. One of them, 
nuwakekepaki , applies to the stones met in the Dobuan seas. 
The other, vineylida, to those who live ' o Muyuwa/ Thus, in 
the open seas, the two spheres of culture meet, for the stones not 
only differ in name but also in nature. The nuwakekepaki are 
probably nothing but malevolent stones. The vineyhda are 
inhabited by witches, or according to others, by evil male 
beings.* Sometimes a vineylida will spring to the surface, 
and hold fast the canoe, very much in the same manner as the 
giant octopus would do, And here again offerings would have 
to be given. A folded mat would first be thrown, in an attempt 
to deceive it ; if this were of no avail, a little boy would be 
anointed with coco-nut oil, adorned with arm-shells and bagt 
necklaces, and thrown over to the evil stones. 

The word vineylida suggests the former belief, as vine fetnale,/t<tfa-coraJ stono. 


It is difficult to realise what natural phenomena or actual 
occurrences might be at the bottom of this belief, and the 
one of the giant octopus. We shall presently meet with a 
cycle of beliefs presenting the same striking features. We 
shall find a story told about human behaviour mixed up with 
supernatural elements, laying down the rules of what would 
happen, and how human beings would behave, in the" same 
matter of fact way, as if ordinary events of tribal life were 
described. I shall have to comment on the psychology of these 
beliefs in the next chapter, where also the story is told. Of 
all the dangerous and frightful beings met with on a sailing 
expedition, the most unpleasant, the best known and most 
dreaded are the flying witches, the yoyova or mulukwausi. 
The former name means a woman endowed with such powers, 
whereas mulukwausi describes the second self of the woman, 
as it flies disembodied through the air. Thus, for instance, 
they would say that such and such a woman in Wawela is a 
yoyova. But sailing at night, one would have to be on the look 
out for mulukwausi, among whom might possibly be the double 
of that woman in Wawela. Very often, especially at moments 
when the speaker would be under the influence of fear of these 
beings, the deprecating euphemism ' vivila ' (women) would 
be used. And probably our Boyowan mariners would speak 
of them thus in their talk round the campfire, for fear of 
attracting them by sounding their real name. Dangerous 
as they always are, at sea they become infinitely more dreaded, 
For the belief is deep that in case of shipwreck or mishap at 
sea, no real evil can befall the crows except by the agency of the 
dreaded women. 

As through their connection with shipwreck, they enter 
inevitably into our narrative, it will be better to leave our 
Kula expedition on the beach of Yakum in the midst of Pilolu, 
and to turn in the next chapter to Kiriwinian ethnography and 
give there an account of the natives 1 belief in the flying 
witches and their legend of shipwreck, 



IN this chapter an account will be given of the ideas and 
beliefs associated with shipwreck, and of the various pre- 
cautions which the natives take to insure their own safety. 
We shall find here a strange mixture of definite, matter of fact 
information, and of fantastic superstitions. Taking a critical, 
ethnographic side view, it may be said directly that the fanciful 
elements are intertwined with the realities in such a manner, 
that it is difficult to make a distinction between what is mere 
mytho-poetic fiction and what is a customary rule of behaviour, 
drawn from actual experience. The best way of presenting 
this material will be to give a consecutive account of a ship- 
wreck, as it is told in Kiriwinian villages by the travelled old 
men to the younger generation. I shall adduce in it the 
several magical formulae, the rules of behaviour, the part played 
by the miraculous fish, and the complex ritual of the saved 
party as they flee from the pursuing mulukwausi. 

These the flying witches will play such an important 
part in the account, that I must begin with a detailed descrip- 
tion of the various beliefs referring to them, though the subject 
has been touched upon once or twice before (Chapter II, 
Division VII, and other places). The sea and sailing upon it 
are intimately associated in the mind of a Boyowan with these 
women. They had to be mentioned in the description of canoe 
magic, and we shall see what an important part they play in 
the legends of canoe building. In his sailing, whether he goes 
to Kitava or further East, or whether he travels South to the 
Amphletts and Dobu, they form one of the main preoccupations 
of a Boyowan sailor. For they are not only dangerous to him, 
but to a certain extent, foreign. Boyowa, with the exception 
of Wawela and one or two other villages on the Eastern coast, 



and in the South of the island, is an ethnographic district, 
where the flying witches do not exist, although they visit it 
from time to time. Whereas all the surrounding tribes are full 
of women who practice this form of sorcery. Thus sailing South, 
the Boyowan is travelling straight into the heart of their domain. 

These women have the power of making themselves invisible, 
and flying at night through the air. The orthodox belief is 
that a woman who is a yoyova can send forth a double which is 
invisible at will, but may appear in the form of a flying fox or of a 
night bird or a firefly. There is also a belief that a yoyova develops 
within her a something, shaped like an egg, or like a young, 
unripe coco-nut. This something is called as a matter of fact 
kapuwana, which is the word for a small coco-nut.* This idea 
remains in the native's mind in a vague, indefinite, undifferen- 
tiated form, and any attempt to elicit a more detailed definition 
by asking him such questions, as to whether the kapuwana is a 
material object or not, would be to smuggle our own categories 
into his belief, where they do not exist. The kapuwana is any- 
how believed to be the something which in the nightly flights 
leaves the body of the yoyova and assumes the various forms 
in which the mulukwausi appears. Another variant of the 
belief about the yoyova is, that those who know their magic 
especially well, can fly themselves, bodily transporting them- 
selves through the air. 

But it can never be sufficiently emphasised that all these 
beliefs cannot be treated as consistent pieces of knowledge ; 
they flow into one another, and even the same native probably 
holds several views rationally inconsistent with one another. 
Even their terminology (compare the last Division of the fore- 
going chapter), cannot be taken as implying a strict distinction 
or definition. Thus, the word yoyova is applied to the woman 
as we meet her in the village, and the word mulukwausi will be 
used when we see something suspicious flying through the air. 
But it would be incorrect to systematise this use into a sort of 
doctrine and to say : "An individual woman is conceived as 
consisting of an actual living personality called yoyova, and of 

* Professor Sehgman has described the belief in similar beings on the 
North-East Coast of New Guinea. At Gelaria, inland of Bartle Bay, the flying 
witches can produce a double, or " sending," which they call labum. *' Labum 
exists within women, and can be commanded by any woman who has had 
children, ... It was said that the labum existed in, or was denved from, 
an organ called ipona, situated in the flank, and literally meaning egg or eggs " 
op. cU. t p. 640. The equivalence of beliefs here is evident. 


an immaterial, spiritual principle called mulukwausi, which in 
its potential form is the kapuwana." In doing this we would 
do much what the Mediaeval Scholastics did to the living faith 
of the early ages. The native feels and fears his belief rather 
than formulates it clearly to himself. He uses terms and 
expressions, and thus, as used by him, we must collect them 
as documents of belief, but abstain from working them out into 
a consistent theory ; for this represents neither the native's 
mind nor any other form of reality. 

As we remember from Chapter II, the flying witches are a 
nefarious agency, second in importance to the bwaga'u (male 
sorcerer), but in efficiency far more deadly even than he himself. 
In contrast to the bwaga'u, who is simply a man in possession of 
a special form of magic, the yoyova have to be gradually initiated 
into their status. Only a small child, whose mother is a witch, 
can become a witch herself. When a witch gives birth to a 
female child, she medicates a piece of obsidian, and cuts off the 
navel string. The navel string is then buried, with the recital 
of a magical formula, in the house, and not, as is done in all 
ordinary cases, in the garden. Soon after, the witch will carry 
her daughter to the sea beach, utter a spell over some brine in a 
coco-nut cup, and give the child to drink. After that, the 
child is submerged in water and washed, a kind of witch's 
baptism ! Then she brings back the baby into the house, 
utters a spell over a mat, and folds her up in it. At night, she 
carries the baby through the air, and goes to a trysting place of 
other yoyova, where she presents her child ritually to them. 
In contrast to the usual custom of young mothers of sleeping 
over a small fire, a sorceress lies with her baby in the cold. 
As the child grows up, the mother will take it into her arms and 
carry it through the air on her nightly rounds. Entering 
girlhood at the age when the first grass skirt is put on a 
maiden, the little prospective witch will begin to fly herself. 

Another system of training, running side by side with 
flying, consists in accustoming the child to participation in 
human flesh. Even before the growing witch will begin to fly 
on her own account, the mother will take her to the ghoulish 
repasts, where she and other witches sit over a corpse, eating 
its eyes, tongue, lungs, and entrails. There the little girl 
receives her first share of corpse flesh, and trains her taste to 
like this diet. 


There are other forms of training ascribed to mothers 
solicitous that their daughters should grow up into efficient 
yoyova and mulukwausi. At night the mother will stand on 
one side of the hut, with the child in her hands, and throw 
the little one over the roof. Then quickly, with the speed 
only possible to a yoyova, she will move round, and catch the 
child on the other side. This happens before the child begins to 
fly, and is meant to accustom it to passing rapidly through the 
air. Or again, the child will be held by her feet, head down, 
and remain in this position while the mother utters a spell. 
Thus gradually, by all these means, the child acquires the 
powers and tastes of a yoyova. 

It is easy to pick out such girls from other children. They 
will be recognisable by their crude tastes, and more especially 
by their habit of eating raw flesh of pigs or uncooked fish. 
And here we come to a point, where mythical superstition plays 
over into something more real, for I have been assured by reli- 
able informants, and those not only natives, that there are cases 
of girls who will show a craving for raw meat, and when a pig is 
being quartered in the village will drink its blood and tear up 
its flesh. These statements I never could verify by direct 
observations, and they may be only the result of very strong 
belief projecting its own realities, as we see on every side in our 
own society in miraculous cures, spiritistic phenomena, etc., 
etc. If, however, the eating of raw flesh by girl children really 
occurs, this simply means that they play up to what they know 
is said and believed about them. This again is a phenomenon 
of social pyschology met with in many phases of Trobriand 
society and in our own. 

This does not mean that the character of & yoyova is publicly 
donned. Indeed, though a man often owns up to the fact that 
he is a bwaga'u, and treats his speciality quite openly in con- 
versation, a woman will never directly confess to being a 
yoyova, not even to her own husband. But she will certainly 
be marked by everyone as such a one, and she will often play 
up to the role, for it is always an advantage to be supposed to 
be endowed with supernatural powers. And moreover, being a 
sorceress is also a good source of income. A woman will often 
receive presents with the understanding that such and such 
a person has to be injured. She will openly take gifts, 
avowedly in payment for healing someone who has been hurt by 


another witch. Thus the character of a yoyova is, in a way, a 
public one and the most important and powerful witches will 
be enumerated by name. But no woman will ever openly 
speak about being one. Of course to have such a character 
would in no way spoil matrimonial chances, or do anything but 
enhance the social status of a woman. 

So deep is the belief in the efficacy of magic, and in magic 
being the only means of acquiring extraordinary faculties, that 
all powers of a yoyova are attributed to magic. As we saw in 
the training of a young yoyova, magic has to be spoken at every 
stage in order to impart to her the character of a witch. A full 
blown yoyova has to utter special magic each time she wishes to 
be invisible, or when she wants to fly, or acquire higher speed, 
or penetrate darkness and distance in order to find out whether 
an accident is happening there. But like everything referring 
to this form of witchcraft, these formulae never come to light. 
Although I was able to acquire a whole body of spells of the 
bwaga'u sorcery, I could not even lift the fringe of the impene- 
trable veil, surrounding the magic of the yoyova. As a matter 
of fact, there is not the slightest doubt for me that not one single 
rite, not one single word of this magic, have ever existed. 

Once a mulukwausi is fully trained in her craft, she will 
often go at night to feed on corpses or to destroy shipwrecked 
mariners, for these are her two main pursuits. By a special 
sense, acquired through magic, she can ' hear,' as the natives 
say, that a man has died at such and such a place, or that a 
canoe is in danger. Even a young apprenticed yoyova will 
have her hearing so sharpened that she will tell her mother : 
" Mother, I hear, they cry ! " Which means that a man is 
dead or dying at some place. Or she will say : " Mother, a 
waga is sinking ! " And then they both will fly to the spot. 

When she goes out on such an errand, the yoyova leaves her 
body behind. Then she climbs a tree, and reciting some magic, 
she ties a creeper to it. Then, she flies off, along this creeper, 
which snaps behind her. This is the moment when we see the 
fire flying through the sky. Whenever the natives see a falling 
star, they know it is a mulukwausi on her flight. Another 
version is that, when a mulukwausi recites a certain spell, a 
tree which stands somewhere near her destination bends down 
towards the other tree on which she is perched. She jumps from 
one top to the other, and it is then that we see the fire. According 


to some versions, the mulukwausi, that is, the witch in her 
flying state, moves about naked, leaving her skirt round the 
body, which remains asleep in the hut. Other versions depict 
her as tying her skirt tightly round her when flying, and beating 
her buttocks with a magical pandanus streamer. These latter 
versions are embodied in the magic quoted above in Chapter V. 

Arrived at the place where lies the corpse, the mulukwausi, 
with others who have also flown to the spot, perches on some 
high object, the top of a tree or the gable of a hut. There 
they all wait till they can feast on the corpse, and such is their 
greed and appetite that they are also very dangerous to living 
men. People who collect round the dead body to mourn and 
wake over it often have a special spell against the mulukwausi 
recited over them, by the one who knows it. They are careful 
not to stray away from the others, and, during burial of the 
dead and afterwards, they believe the air to be infested with 
these dangerous witches, who spread the smell of carrion around 

The mulukwausi will eat out the eyes, the tongue, and 
the ' insides ' (lopoula) of the corpse ; when they attack a 
living man they may simply hit him or kick him, and then he 
becomes more or less sick. But sometimes they get hold of an 
individual and treat him like a corpse and eat some of his organs, 
and then the man dies. It is possible to diagnose this, for such 
a person would quickly fail, losing his speech, his vision, 
sometimes suddenly being bereft of all power of movement. 
It is a less dangerous method to the living man when the 
mulukwausi instead of eating his ' insides ' on the spot, simply 
remove them. They hide them in a place only known to them- 
selves, in order to have provision for a future feast. In that 
case there is some hope for the victim. Another yoyova, 
summoned quickly by the relations of the dying and well paid 
by them, will, in the form of a mulukwausi, go forth, search for 
.the missing organs, and, if she is fortunate enough to find and 
restore them, save the life of the victim. 

Kenoriya, the favourite daughter of To'ulawa, the chief of 
Omarakana, while on a visit to another village, was deprived of 
her internal organs by the mulukwausi. When brought home, 
she could neither move nor speak, and lay down as if dead. Her 
mother and other relatives already began their mortuary wailing 
over her, the chief himself broke out into loud lamentations. 


But nevertheless, as a forlorn hope, they sent for a woman 
from Wawela, a well-known, yoyova, who after receiving 
valuables and food, flew out as a mulukwausi, and the very next 
night found Kenoriya's insides somewhere in the raybwag, 
near the beach of Kaulukuba, and restored her to health. 

Another authentic story is that of the daughter of a Greek 
trader and a Kiriwinian woman from Oburaku. This story 
was told me by the lady herself, in perfectly correct English, 
learnt in one of the white settlements of New Guinea, where she 
had been brought up in the house of a leading missionary. 
But the story was not spoilt by any scepticism ; it was told 
with perfect simplicity and conviction. 

When she was a little girl, a woman called Sewawela, from 
the Island of Kitava, but married to a man of Wawela, came to 
her parents' house and wanted to sell a mat. They did not buy 
it, and gave her only a little food, which, as she was a renowned 
yoyova and accustomed therefore to deferential treatment, 
made her angry. When night came, the little one was playing 
on the beach in front of the house, when the parents saw a big 
firefly hovering about the child. The insect then flew round 
the parents and went into the room. Seeing that there was 
something strange about the firefly, they called the girl and put 
her to bed at once. But she fell ill immediately, could not sleep 
all night, and the parents, with many native attendants, had to 
keep watch over her. Next morning, added the Kiriwinian 
mother, who was listening to her daughter telling me the tale, 
the girl " boge ikarige ; kukula wala ipipisi," " she was dead 
already, but her heart was still beating." All the women 
present broke out into the ceremonial lamentations. The 
father of .the girl's mother, however, went to Wawela, and got 
hold of another yoyova, called Bomrimwari. She took some 
herbs and smeared her own body all over. Then she went out 
in the form of a mulukwausi in search of the girl's lopoulo 
(inside). She searched about and found it in the hut of 
Sewawela, where it lay on the shelf on which are kept the big 
clay-pots, in which the mona (taro pudding), is cooked cere- 
monially. There it lay " red as calico." Sewawela had left 
it there, while she went into the garden with her husband, 
meaning to eat it on her return. Had this happened, the girl 
could not have been saved. As soon as Bomrimwari found it, 
she made some magic over it then and there. Then she came 


back to the trader's compound, made some more magic over 
ginger-root, and water, and caused the lopoulo to return to its 
place. After that, the little girl soon got better. A substantial 
payment was given by the parents to the yoyova for saving their 

Living in Oburaku, a village on the Southern half of Boyowa, 
I was on the boundary between the district where the yoyova do 
not exist, and the other one, to the East, where they are 
plentiful. On the other side of the Island, which is very narrow 
at this part, is the village of Wawela, where almost every 
woman is reputed to be a witch, and some are quite notorious. 
Going over the raybwag at night, the natives of Oburaku would 
point out certain fireflies which would suddenly disappear, not 
to relight again. These were the mulukwausi. Again, at 
night, swarms of flying foxes used to flap over the tall trees, 
making for the big, swampy Island of Boymapo'u which closes 
in the Lagoon opposite the village. These too were muluk- 
wausi, travelling from the East, their real home. They also 
used to perch on the tops of the trees growing on the water's 
edge, and this was therefore an especially dangerous spot after 
sunset. I was often warned not to sit there on the platforms 
of the beached canoes, as I liked to do, watching the play of 
colours on the smooth, muddy waters, and on the bright 
mangroves. When I fell ill soon after, everybody decided that 
I had been ' kicked ' by the mulukwausi, and some magic was 
performed over rne by my friend Molilakwa, the same who gave 
me some formulae of kayga'u, the magic spoken at sea against 
witches. In this case his efforts were entirely successful, and 
my quick recovery was attributed by the natives solely to the 


What interests us most about mulukwausi, is their associa- 
tion with the sea and shipwreck. Very often they will roam 
over the sea, and meet at a trysting place on a reef. There 
they will partake of a special kind of coral, broken off from a 
reef, a kind called by the natives nada. This whets their appe- 
tite for human flesh, exactly as the drinking of salt water does 
with the bwaga'u. They have also some indirect power over 
the elements in the sea. Although the natives do not quite 
agree on the point, there is no doubt that a definite connection 


exists between the mulukwausi and all the other dangers which 
may be met in the sea, such as sharks, the ' gaping depth ' 
(ikapwagega wiwitu), many of the small sea animals, crabs, 
some of the shells and the other things to be mentioned 
presently, all of which are considered to be the cause of death 
of drowning men. Thus the belief is quite definite that, in 
being cast into the water by the shipwreck, men do not meet 
any real danger except by being eaten by the mulukwausi, 
the sharks, and the other animals. If by the proper magic 
these influences can be obviated, the drowning men will escape 
unscathed. The belief in the omnipotence of man, or rather, 
woman in this case, and of the equal power in antidoting by 
magic, governs all the ideas of these natives about shipwreck. 
The supreme remedy and insurance against any dangers lies 
in the magic of mist, called kayga'u, which, side by side with 
Kula magic, and the magic of the canoes, is the third of the 
indispensable magical equipments of a sailor. 

A man who knows well the kayga'u is considered to be able 
to travel safely through the most dangerous seas. A renowned 
chief, Maniyuwa, who was reputed as one of the greatest masters 
in kayga'u as well as in other magic, died in Dobu on an expe- 
dition about two generations ago. His son, Maradiana, had 
learnt his father's kayga'u. Although the mulukwausi are 
extremely dangerous in the presence of a corpse, and though 
the natives would never dream of putting a dead body on a 
canoe, and thus multiplying the probabilities of an attack by 
the witches, still, Maradiana, trusting to his kayga'u, brought 
the corpse back to Boyowa without mishap. This act, a testi- 
mony to the daring sailor's great prowess, and to the efficiency 
of the kayga'u magic, is kept alive in the memory and tradition 
of the natives. One of my informants, boasting of his kayga'u, 
told me how once, on a return from Dobu, he performed his 
rites. Such a mist arose as a consequence of it that the rest of 
the canoes lost their way, and arrived in the island of Kayleula. 
Indeed, if we can speak of a belief being alive, that is, of having 
a strong hold over human imagination, the belief in the danger 
from mulukwausi at sea is emphatically such a one. In times 
of mental stress, in times of the slightest danger at sea, or when 
a dying or dead person is near, the natives at once respond 
emotionally in terms of this belief. No one could live among 
these natives, speaking their language, and following their 


tribal life, without constantly coming up against the belief in 
mulukwausi, and in the efficiency of the kayga'u. 

As in all other magic, also here, there are various systems of 
kayga'u, that is, there are various formulae, slightly differing 
in their expressions, though usually similar in their fundamental 
wordings and in certain ' key ' expressions. In each ystem, 
there are two main types of spells, the giyotanawa, or the kayga'u 
of the Underneath, and the giyorokaywa, or the kayga'u of the 
Above. The first one usually consists of a short formula or 
formulae spoken over some stones and some lime in a lime pot 
and over some ginger root. This giyotanawa, as its name 
indicates, is magic directed against the evil agencies, awaiting 
the drowning men from below. Its spells close up ' the gaping 
depth ' and they screen off the shipwrecked men from the eyes 
of the sharks. They also protect them from the other evil 
things, which cause the death of a man in drowning. The 
several little sea worms found on the beach, the crabs, the 
poisonous fish, soka, and the spiky fish, baiba'i, as well as the 
jumping stones, whether vineylida or nu'akekepaki, are all 
warded off and blinded by the giyotanawa. Perhaps the most 
extraordinary belief in this connection is that the tokwalu, the 
carved human figures on the prow boards, the guwaya, the semi- 
human effigy on the mast top, as well as the canoe ribs would 
' eat ' the drowning men if not magically ' treated.' 

The kayga'u of the ' Above/ the giyorokaywa, consists of 
long spells, recited over some ginger root, on several occasions 
before sailing, and during bad weather or shipwreck. They are 
directed exclusively against the mulukwausi, and form therefore 
the more important class of the two. These spells must never 
be recited at night, as then the mulukwausi could see and hear 
the man, and make his magic inefficient. Again, the spell of 
the Above, when recited at sea, must be spoken so that the 
magician is not covered with spray, for if his mouth were wet 
with sea water, the smell would attract rather than disperse, 
the flying witches. The man who knows the kayga'u must also 
be very careful at meal times. Children may not speak, play 
about, or make any noise while he eats, nor should anyone go 
round him behind his back while he is thus engaged ; nor 
may they point out anything with the finger. Should the 
man be thus disturbed during his food, he would have to stop 
eating at once, and not resume it till the next meal time. 


Now the leading idea of kayga'u is that it produces some 
sort of mist. The mulukwausi who follow the canoe, the sharks 
and live stones which lie in wait for it, the depth with all its 
horror, and the debris of the canoe ready to harm the owner, 
all these are blinded by the mist that arises in obedience to these 
spells. Thus the paralysing effect of these two main forms of 
magic and the specialised sphere of influence of each of them, 
are definite and clear dogmas of native belief. 

But here again we must not try to press the interpretation 
of these dogmas too far. Some sort of mist covers the eyes of 
all the evil agencies or blinds them ; it makes the natives 
invisible from them. But to ask whether the kayga'u produces 
a real mist, visible also to man, or only a supernatural one, 
visible only to the mulukwausi ; or whether it simply blinds 
their eyes so that they see nothing, would be asking too much. 
The same native who will boast of having produced a real mist, 
so great that it led astray his companions, will next day perform 
the kayga'u in the village during a burial, and affirm that the 
mulukwausi are in a mist, though obviously a perfectly clear 
atmosphere surrounds the whole proceedings. The natives 
will tell how, sailing on a windy but clear day, after a kayga'u 
has been recited into the eye of the wind, they hear the shrieks 
of the mulukwausi, who, losing their companions and the scent 
of the trail, hail one another in the dark. Again, some expres- 
sions seem to represent the view that it is mainly an action on 
the eyes of the witches. ' Idudubila matala mulukwausi,' 
' It darkens the eyes of the mulukwausi/ or ' Iguyugwayu ' 
' It blinds,' the natives will say. And when asked : 

" What do the mulukwausi see, then ? " they will 
answer : " They will see mist only. They do not see 
the places, they do not see the men, only mist/' 

Thus here, as in all cases of belief, there is a certain latitude, 
within which the opinions and views may vary, and only the 
broad outline, which surrounds them, is definitely fixed by 
tradition, embodied in ritual, and expressed by the phraseology 
of magical formulae or by the statements of a myth. 

I have thus defined the manner in which the natives face 
the dangers of the sea ; we have found, that the fundamental 
conceptions underlying this attitude are, that in shipwreck, 
men are entirely in the hands of the witches, and that from 


this, only their own magical defence can save them. This 
defence consists in the rites and formulae of the kayga'u, of 
which we have also learnt the leading principles. Now, a 
consecutive description must be given of how this magic is 
performed when a toliwaga sets out on an expedition. And 
following up this expedition, it must be told how the natives 
imagine a shipwreck, and what they believe the behaviour of 
the shipwrecked party would be. 


I shall give this narrative in a consecutive manner, as it was 
told to me by some of the most experienced and renowned 
Trobriand sailors in Sinaketa, Oburaku, and Omarakana. We 
can imagine that exactly such a narrative would be told by a 
veteran toliwaga to his usagelu on the beach of Yakum, as our 
Kula party sit round the camp fires at night. One of the old 
men, well-known for the excellence of his kayga'u, and boastful 
of it, would tell his story, entering minutely into all the details, 
however often the others might have heard about them before, 
or even assisted at the performance of his magic. He would 
then proceed to describe, with extreme realism, and dwelling 
graphically on every point, the story of a shipwreck, very 
much as if he had gone through one himself. As a matter of 
fact, no one alive at present has had any personal experience 
of such a catastrophe, though many have lived through fre- 
quent narrow escapes in stormy weather. Based on this, and 
on what they have heard themselves of the tradition of ship- 
wrecks, natives will tell the story with characteristic vividness. 
Thus, the account given below is not only a summary of native 
belief, it is an ethnographic document in itself, representing 
the manner in which such type of narrative would be told 
over camp fires, the same subject being over and over again 
repeated by the same man, and listened to by the same 
audience, exactly as we, when children, or the peasants of 
Eastern Europe, will hearken to familiar fairy tales and 
Marchen The only deviation here from what would actually 
take place in such a story-telling, is the insertion of magical 
formulae into the narrative. The speaker might indeed repeat 
his magic, were he speaking in broad daylight, in his village, to a 
group of close kinsmen and friends. But being on a small 
island in the middle of the ocean, and at night, the recital of 


spells would be a taboo of the kayga'u ; nor would a man ever 
recite his magic before a numerous audience, except on certain 
occasions at mortuary vigils, where people are expected to chant 
their magic aloud before hundreds of listeners. 

Returning then again to our group of sailors, who sit under 
the stunted pandanus trees of Yakum, let us listen to one of the 
companions of the daring Maradiana, now dead, to one of the 
descendants of the great Maniyuwa. He will tell us how, early 
in the morning, on the day of departure from Sinaketa, or 
sometimes on the next morning, when they leave Muwa, he 
performs the first rite of kayga'u. Wrapping up a piece of 
leyya (wild ginger root) in a bit of dried banana leaf, he chants 
over it the long spell of the giyorokaywa, the kayga'u of the 
Above. He chants this spell into the leaf, holding it cup- 
shaped, with the morsel of ginger root at the bottom, so that 
the spell might enter into the substance to be medicated. 
After that, the leaf is immediately wrapped round, so as to 
imprison the magical virtue, and the magician ties the parcel 
round his left arm, with a piece of bast or string. Sometimes 
he will medicate two bits of ginger and make two parcels, of 
which the other will be placed in a string necklet, and 
carried on his breast. Our narrator, who is the master of one of 
the canoes, will probably not be the only one within the circle 
round the camp fire, who carries these bundles of medicated 
ginger ; for though a toliwaga must always perform this rite as 
well as know all the other magic of shipwreck, as a rule several 
of the older members of his crew also know it, and have also 
prepared their magical bundles. 

This is one of the spells of the giyorokaywa, such as the old 
man said over the ginger root : 


" I will befog Muyuwa ! " (repeated). " I will befog 
Misima ! " (repeated). " The mist springs up ; the mist 
makes them tremble. I befog the front, I shut off the 
rear ; I befog the rear, I shut off the front. I fill with mist, 
mist springs up ; I fill with mist, the mist which makes 
them tremble." 

This is the opening part of the formula, very clear, 
and easy to be translated. The mist is magically invoked, 
the word for mist being repeated with several verbal com- 
binations, in a rhythmic and alliterative manner. The 


expression tremble, maysisi, refers to a peculiar belief, that 
when a sorcerer or sorceress approaches the victim, and 
this man paralyses them with a counter spell, they lose 
their bearings, and stand there trembling. 

The main part of this spell opens up with the word 
' aga'u,' ' I befog/ which, like all such leading words of a 
spell is first of all intoned in a long, drawn-out % chant, 
and then quickly repeated with a series of words. Then 
the word ' aga'u ' is replaced by ' aga'u sulu,' ' I befog, 
lead astray/ which in its turn makes way for, ' aga'u 
boda,' ' I befog, shut off.' The list of words repeated in 
succession with each of these three expressions is a long one. 
It is headed by the words ' the eyes of the witches/ Then, 
' the eyes of the sea-crab/ Then, always with the word 
1 eyes/ the animals, worms and insects which threaten 
drowning men in the sea, are enumerated. After they are 
exhausted, the various parts of the body are repeated ; 
then finally, a long list of villages is recited, preceded by 
the word aga'u, forming phrases such as : "I befog the 
eyes of the women of Wawela, etc." 

Let us reconstruct a piece of this middle part in a con- 
secutive manner. " I befog ....!! befog, I 
befog, the eyes of the witches ! I befog the eyes of the 
little crabs ! I befog the eyes of the hermit crab ! I 
befog the eyes of the insects on the beach ! . . . etc/' 

" I befog the hand, I befog the foot, I befog the head. I 
befog the shoulders . . . . etc/' 

" I befog the eyes of the women of Wawela ; I befog the 
eyes of the women of Kaulasi ; I befog the eyes of the 
women of Kumilabwaga, I befog the eyes of the women of 
Vakuta. . . . etc., etc." 

" I befog, lead astray, the eyes of the witches ; I befog, 
lead astray the eyes of the little crab ! . . . etc." 

" I befog, shut off the eyes of the witches, I befog, shut 
off the eyes of the little crab . . . etc., etc." 

It can easily be seen how long drawn such a spell is, 
especially as in this middle part, the magician will often 
come back to where he has started, and repeat the leading 
word over and over again with the others. Indeed, this 
can be taken as a typical tapwana, or middle part, of a 
long spell, where the leading words are, so to speak, well 
rubbed into the various other expressions. One feature of 
this middle part is remarkable, namely, that the beings 
from below, the crabs, the sea insects and worms are 
invoked, although the spell is one of the giyorokaywa type, 
the magic of the Above. This is an inconsistency 


frequently met with ; a contradiction between the ideas 
embodied in the spell, and the theory of the magic, as 
explicitly formulated by the informants. The parts of 
the body enumerated in the tapwana refer to the magician's 
own person, and to his companions in the canoe. By 
this part of the spell, he surrounds himself and all his 
companions with mist, which makes them invisible to all 
the evil influences. 

After the long tapwana has been recited, there follows 
the last part, which, however, is not chanted in this case, 
but spoken in a low, persuasive, tender voice. 

"I hit thy flanks ; I fold over thy mat, thy bleached 
mat of pandanus ; I shall make it into thy mantle. I take 
thy sleeping doba (grass skirt), I cover thy loins ; remain 
there, snore within thy house ! I alone myself" (here the 
reciter's name is uttered) " I shall remain in the sea, I 
shall swim ! " 

This last part throws some interesting sidelights on native 
belief in mulukwausi. We see here the expression of the idea 
that the body of the witch remains in the house, whilst she 
herself goes out on her nefarious errand. Molilakwa, the 
magician of Oburaku who gave me this spell, said in com- 
mentary to this last part : 

" The yoyova casts off her body (inini wowola which 
really means ' peals off her skin ') ; she lies down and 
sleeps, we hear her snoring. Her covering (kapwalela 
that is, her outward body, her skin) remains in the house, 
and she herself flies (titolela biyova). Her skirt remains in 
the house, she flies naked. When she meets men, she eats 
us. In the morning, she puts on her body, and lies down 
in her hut. When we cover her loins with the doba, she 
cannot fly any more." 

This last sentence refers to the magical act of covering, as 
expressed in the last part of the spell. 

Here we find another variant of belief as to the nature of the 
mulukwausi, to be added to those mentioned before. Previously 
we met the belief of the disassociation of the woman into the 
part that remains, and the part that flies. But here the real 
personality is located in the flying part, whereas what remains 
is the ' covering/ To imagine the mulukwausi, the flying part, 
as a ' sending,' in the light of this belief, would not be correct. 
In general, such categories as ' agent,' and ' sending,' or as 


' real self ' and ' emanation ' etc., etc., can be applied to native 
belief as rough approximations only, and the exact definition 
should be given in terms of native statement. 

The final sentence of this spell, containing the wish to 
remain alone in the sea, to be allowed to swim and drift, is a 
testimony to the belief that without mulukwausi, there is no 
danger to a man adrift on a piece of wreckage amdng the 
foaming waves of a stormy sea. 

After reciting this lengthy spell, the toliwaga, as he tells us 
in his narrative, has had to perform another rite, this time, 
over his lime-pot. Taking out the stopper of rolled palm leaf 
and plaited fibre from the baked and decorated gourd in which 
he keeps his lime, he utters another spell of the giyorokaywa 
cycle : 


" There on Muruwa, I arise, I stand up ! Iwa, Sewatupa, 
at the head I rumble, I disperse. Kasabwaybwayreta, 
Namedili, Toburitolu, Tobwebweso, Tauva'u, Bo'abwa'u, 
Rasarasa. They are lost, they disappear." 

This beginning, full of archaic expressions, implicit 
meanings and allusions and personal names, is very obscure. 
The first words refer probably to the head-quarters of 
sorcery ; Muruwa (or Murua Woodlark Island), Iwa, 
Sewatupa. The long list of personal names following 
afterwards contains some mythical ones, like Kasabway- 
bwayreta, and some others, which I cannot explain, 
though the words Tobwebweso, Tauva'u, and Bo'abwa'u 
suggest that this is a list in which some sorcerers' names 
figure. As a rule, in such spells, a list of names signifies 
that all those who have used and handed down this 
formula, are enumerated. In some cases the people 
mentioned are frankly mythical heroes. Sometimes a few 
mythical names are chanted, and then comes a string of 
actual people, forming a sort of pedigree of the spell. If 
these in this spell are ancestor names they all refer to 
mythical personalities, and not to real ancestors.* The 
last words contained an expression typical of the kayga'u. 
Then comes the middle part. 

* Not all the spells which I have obtained have been equally well trans- 
lated and commented upon. This one, although very valuable, for it is one of 
the spells of the old chiei Maniyuwa, and one which had been recited when his 
corpse was brought over from Dobu by his son Maradiana, was obtained early 
in my ethnographic career, and Gomaya, Maradiana's son, from whom I got it, 
is a bad commentator. Nor could I find any other competent informant later 
on, who could completely elucidate it for me. 


" I arise, I escape from bara'u ; I arise, I escape from 
yoyova. I arise, I escape from mulukwausi. I arise, I 
escape from bowo'u, etc./' repeating the leading words 
" I arise, I escape from " with the words used to describe 
the flying witches in the various surrounding districts. 
Thus the word bara'u comes from Muyuwa (Woodlark 
Island), where it describes the sorceress, and not, as in 
other Massim districts, a male sorcerer. The words 
yoyova, mulukwausi need no explanation. Bowo'u is an 
Amphlettan word. Words from Dobu, Tubetube, etc., 
follow. Then the whole period is repeated, adding ' eyes 
of ' in the middle of each phrase, so that it runs : 

" I arise, I escape from the eyes of the bara'u. I arise, 
I escape from the eyes of the yoyova, etc." The leading 
words, ' I arise, I escape from * are then replaced by * 
' They wander astray/ which, again, make way to ' the 
sea is cleared off ' This whole middle part of the spell 
is clear, and needs no commentary. Then comes the 
concluding period (dogina) : 

" I am a manuderi (small bird), I am a kidikidi (small 
sea bird), I am a floating log, I am a piece of sea- weed ; 
I shall produce mist till it encloses all, I shall befog, 
I shall shut off with fog. Mist, enveloped in mist, dissolv- 
ing in mist am I. Clear is the sea, (the mulukwausi are) 
straying in mist." This part also needs no special com- 

This is again a long spell of the giyorokaywa type, that is, 
directed against the mulukwausi, and in this the spell is consis- 
tent, for the mulukwausi alone are invoked in the middle 

After the spell has been chanted into the lime pot, this is 
well stoppered, and not opened till the end of the journey. It 
must be noted that these two giyorokaywa spells have been 
spoken by our toliwaga in the village or on Muwa beach, and 
in day time. For as said above, it is a taboo to utter them in 
the night or at sea. From the moment he has spoken these 
two spells, both medicated substances, the ginger root and the 
lime in the lime pot, remain near him. He has also in the 
canoe some stones of those brought from the Koya, and called 
binabina, in distinction to the dead coral, which is called 
dakuna. Over these stones, at the moment of the occurrence 
of danger, a spell of the Underneath, a giyotanawa will be 
recited. The following is a formula of this type, short as they 
always are 



" Man, bachelor, woman, young girl ; woman, young 
girl, man, bachelor ! Traces, traces obliterated by cob- 
webs ; traces, obliterated by turning up (the material in 
which they were left) ; I press, I close down ! Sharks of 
Dukutabuya, I press, I close down ; Sharks of Kaduwaga, 
I press, I close down/' etc., the sharks of Muwa, Galeya, 
Bonari, and Kaulokoki being invoked in turn. All these 
words are names of marked parts of the sea, in and around 
the Trobriand Lagoon. The formula ends up with the 
following peroration : "I press down thy neck, I open up 
thy passage of Kiyawa, I kick thee down, O shark. Duck 
down under water, shark. Die, shark, die away." 

The commentary to the opening sentences given by my 
informant, Molilakwa of Oburaku, was : 

" This magic is taught to people when they are quite 
young. Hence the mention of young people." 

The obliterating of traces will be made clearer by the account 
which follows, in which we shall see that to obliterate traces, 
to put off the scent the shark and mulukwausi are the main 
concerns of the shipwrecked party. The middle part refers to 
sharks only, and so does the peroration. The passage of 
Kiyawa near Tuma is mentioned in several types of magical 
exorcisms, when the evil influence is being banished. This 
passage lies between the main island and the island of Tuma, 
and leads into the unknown regions of the North-Western seas. 

It will be best to quote here another formula of the 
giyotanawa type, and a very dramatic one. For this is the 
formula spoken at the critical moment of shipwreck. At the 
mofnent when the sailors decide to abandon the craft and to 
plunge into the sea, the toliwaga stands up in the canoe, and 
slowly turning round so as to throw his words towards all four 
winds, intones in a loud voice this spell : 


" Foam, foam, breaking wave, wave ! I shall enter into 
the breaking wave, I shall come out from behind it. I 
shall enter from behind into the wave, and I shall come 
out in its breaking foam I " 

" Mist, gathering mist, encircling mist, surround, 
surround me ! " 


" Mist, gathering mist, encircling mist, surround, surround 

me, my mast ! 
Mist, gathering mist, etc. . . . surround me, the nose 

of my canoe. 

Mist, etc. . . . surround me, my sail, 
Mist, etc. . . . surround me, my steering oar, 
Mist, etc. . . . surround me, my rigging, 
Mist, etc. . . . surround me, my platform," 

And so on, enumerating one after the other all the parts 
of the canoe and its accessories. Then comes the final part 
of the spell : 

" I shut off the skies with mist ; I make the sea tremble 
with mist ; I close up your mouth, sharks, bonubonu 
(small worms), ginukwadewo (other worms). Go under- 
neath and we shall swim on top." 

Little is needed as a commentary to this magic. Its begin- 
ning is very clear, and singularly well depicts the situation in 
which it is uttered. The end refers directly to the primary 
aim of the magic, to the warding off of the Underneath, of the 
dangerous animals in the sea. The only ambiguity refers to 
the middle part, where the magical leading words of ' envelop- 
ing by mist ' are associated with a list of names of the parts of 
the canoe. I am not certain whether this is to be interpreted, 
in the sense that the toliwaga wants to surround his whole canoe 
with mist so that it may not be seen by the sharks, etc., or 
whether, on the contrary, just on the verge of abandoning his 
canoe, and anxious to cut himself off from its various parts 
which may turn on him and ' eat him/ he therefore wants to 
surround each of them with mist so that it may be blinded. 
The latter interpretation fits the above-quoted belief that 
certain parts of the canoe, especially the carved human figures 
on the prowboard and the mast, the ribs of the canoe, and 
certain other parts of its construction, ' eat ' the shipwrecked 
men. But again, in this spell, there are enumerated not certain 
parts, but every part, and that undoubtedly is not consistent 
with this belief, so the question must remain open 


I have anticipated some of the events of the consecutive 
narrative of shipwreck, in order to give the two last mentioned 
magical formulae first, and not to have to interrupt the tale of 


our tohwaga, to which we now return. We left it at the point 
where, having said his first two kayga'u formulae over the ginger 
and into the lime pot, he embarks, keeping these two things 
handy, and putting some binabina stones within his reach. 
From here, his narrative becomes more dramatic. He de- 
scribes the approaching storm : 


The canoe sails fast ; the wind rises ; big waves come ; 
the wind booms, du-du-du-du. . . The sails flutter ; 
the lamina (outrigger) rises high ! All the usagelu crouch 
on the lamina. I speak magic to calm the wind. The big 
spell of the Sim-sim. They know all about yavata (North- 
Westerley Monsoon wind). They live in the eye of the 
yavata. The wind abates not, not a little bit. It booms, 
it gains strength, it booms loud du-du-du-du-du. All the 
usagelu are afraid. The mulukwausi scream, u-u, u-u, 
u-u, u ; their voices are heard in the wind. With the wind 
they scream and come flying. The veva (sheet rope) is 
torn from the hands of the tokabinaveva. The sail flutters 
freely in the wind ; it is torn away. It flies far into the 
sea ; it falls on the waters. The waves break over the 
canoe. I stand up. I take the binabina stones ; I recite 
the kayga'u over them, the giyotanawa, the spell of the 
Underneath. The short spell, the very strong spell. I 
throw the stones into the deep. They weigh down the 
sharks, the vineylida ; they close the Gaping Depth. The 
fish cannot see us. I stand up, I take my lime pot ; I 
break it. The lime I throw into the wind. It wraps us up 
in mist. Such a mist that no one can see us. The 
mulukwausi lose sight of us. We hear them shout near by. 
They shout u-u, u-ti, u-u, u. The sharks, the bonubonu, 
the soka do not see us ; the water is turbid. The canoe 
is swamped, the water is in it. It drifts heavily, the 
waves break over us. We break the vatotuwa, (the sticks 
joining the float to the platform). The lamina (outrigger 
float) is severed ; we jump from the waga ; we catch hold 
of the lamina. On the lamina we drift. I utter the great 
Kaytaria spell ; the big fish iraviyaka comes. It lifts us. 
It takes the lamina on its back, and carries us. We drift, 
we drift, we drift/' 

" We approach a shore ; the iraviyaka brings us there, 
the iraviyaka puts us on the shallows. I take a stout pole, 
I lift it off ; I speak a spell. The iraviyaka turns back 
to the deep sea." 


" We are all on the dayaga (fringing reef). We stand in 
water. The water is cold, we all shiver with cold. We 
do not go ashore. We are afraid of the mulukwausi. They 
follow us ashore. They wait for us ashore. I take a 
dakuna (piece of coral stone), I say a spell over it. I 
throw the stone on the beach ; it makes a big thud ; 
good ; the mulukwausi are not there. We go ashore. 
Another time, I throw a stone, we hear nothing : muluk- 
wausi are on the beach ; they catch it ; we hear nothing. 
We remain on the dayaga. I take some leyya (ginger). I 
spit it at the beach. I throw another stone. The 
mulukwausi do not. see it. It falls down ; we hear it. We 
go ashore ; we sit on the sand in a row. We sit in one row, 
one man near another, as on the lamina (in the same order 
as they drifted on the lamina). I make a charm over the 
comb ; all the usagelu comb their hair ; they tease their 
hair a long time. They are very cold ; we do not make 
the fire. First, I put order on the beach ; I take the piece 
of leyya, I spit it over the beach. One time, when the 
leyya is finished, I take some kasita leaves (the beach is 
always full of these). I put them on the shore, I put a 
stone on them, uttering a spell afterwards, we make 
fire. All sit round and warm themselves at the fire." 

" At day time, we don't go to the village ; the muluk- 
wausi would follow us. After dark, we go. Like on the 
lamina, we march in the same order, one after the other. 
I go last ; I chant a spell over a libu plant. I efface our 
traces. I put the libu on our track ; I put the weeds 
together. I make the path confused. I say a charm to 
the spider, that he might make a cobweb. I say a charm 
to the bush-hen, that she might turn up the soil." 

" We go to the village. We enter the village, we pass 
the main place. No one sees us ; we are in mist, we are 
invisible. We enter the house of my veyola (maternal 
kinsman), he medicates some leyya ; he spits (magically) 
on all of us. The mulukwausi smell us ; they smell the 
salt water on our skins. They come to the house, the house 
trembles. A big wind shakes the house, we hear big thuds 
against the house. The owner of the house medicates the 
leyya and spits over us ; they cannot see us. A big fire 
is made in the house ; plenty of smoke fills the house. 
The leyya and the smoke blind their eyes. Five days we 
sit in smoke, our skin smells of smoke ; our hair smells of 
smoke ; the mulukwausi cannot smell us. Then I medicate 
some water and coco-nut, the usagelu wash and annoint 
themselves. They leave the house, they sit on the 


kaukweda (spot before the house). The owner of the house 
chases them away. ' Go, go to your wife ; ' we all go, 
we return to our houses." 

I have given here a reconstruction of a native account, as I 
have often heard it told with characteristic vividness : spoken 
in short, jerky sentences, with onamatopoetic representations 
of sound, the narrative exaggerates certain features, and omits 
others. The excellency of the narrator's own magic, the 
violence of the elements at critical moments, he would 
always reiterate with monotonous insistence. He would 
diverge into some correlated subject, jump ahead, missing 
out several stages, come back, and so on, so that the whole is 
quite incoherent and unintelligible to a white listener, though 
the native audience follows its trend perfectly well. For it 
must be remembered that, when a native tells such a story, the 
events are already known to his listeners, who have grown up 
gradually becoming familiar with the narrow range of their 
tribal folklore. Our toliwaga, telling this story over again on 
the sandbank of Yakum, would dwell on such points as allowed 
him to boast of his kayga'u, to describe the violence of the 
storm, to bear witness to the traditional effects of the magic. 

It is necessary for an Ethnographer to listen several times 
to such a narrative, in order to have a fair chance of forming 
some coherent idea of its trend. Afterwards, by means of direct 
examination, he can succeed in placing the facts in their proper 
sequence. By questioning the informants about details of rite 
and magic, it is possible then to obtain interpretations and 
commentaries. Thus the whole of a narrative can be con- 
structed, the various fragments, with all their spontaneous 
freshness, can be put in their proper places, and this is what I 
have done in giving this account of shipwreck.* 

A few words of comment must now be given on the text of 
the above narrative. In it, a number of magical rites were 
mentioned, besides those which were described first with their 
spells. Something must be said more in detail about the spells 
of the subsequent magical performances. There are some 
eleven of them. First comes the ritual invocation of the fish 

* Such reconstructions are legitimate for an Ethnographer, as well as 
for a historian. But it is a duty of the former as well as of the latter to show 
his sources as well as to explain how he has manipulated them. In one of the 
next chapters, Chapter XVIII, Divisions XIV-XV1I, a sample of this method- 
ological aspect of the work will be given, although the full elaboration of sources 
and methods must be postponed to another publication. 


which helps the shipwrecked sailors. The spell corresponding 
to this, is called kaytaria, and it is an important formula, which 
every toliwaga is supposed to know. The question arises, has 
this rite ever been practised in reality ? Some of the actions 
taken by the shipwrecked natives, such as the cutting ot the 
the outrigger float when the boat is abandoned, are quite 
rational. It would be dangerous to float on the big, unwieldy 
canoe which might be constantly turned round and round by 
the waves, and if smashed to pieces, might injure the sailors 
with its wreckage. In this fact, perhaps there is also the 
empirical basis for the belief that some fragments of the canoe 
' eat ' the shipwrecked men. The round, symmetrical log of 
the lamina, on the other hand, will serve as an excellent 
lifebuoy. Perhaps a toliwaga, arrived at such a pass, would 
really utter the kaytaria spell. And if the party were saved, 
they would probably all declare, and, no doubt believe, that 
the fish had come to their summons, and somehow or other 
helped in the rescue. 

It is less easy to imagine what elements in such an experi- 
ence might have given rise to the myth that the natives, landed 
on the shore, magically lift the fish from the shallow waters 
by means of a charmed pole. This indeed seems a purely 
imaginary incident, and my main informant, Molilakwa of 
Oburaku, from whom I obtained the kaytaria spell, did not 
know the spell of the pole, and would have had to leave the 
iraviaka to its own fate in the shallows. Nor could I hear of 
anyone else professing to know this spell. The formula uttered 
over the stone to be thrown on the beach was equally unknown 
to the circle of my informants. Of course, in all such cases, 
when a man carrying on a system of magic would come to a gap 
in his knowledge, he would perform the rite without the spell, 
or utter the most suitable spell of the system. Thus here, as the 
stone is thrown in order to reconnoitre whether the mulukwausi 
are waiting for them, a spell of the giyorokaywa, the spell of the 
mulukwausi, might be uttered over the stone. Over the combs, 
as well as over the herbs on the beach, a giyorokaywa spell 
would be uttered, according to my informants, but probably, a 
different spell from the one spoken originally over the ginger 
root. Molilakwa, for instance, knows two spells of the giyoro- 
kaywa, both of which are suitable to be spoken over the ginger 
and over the beach respectively. Then there comes another 


spell, to be uttered over the libu plant, and in addressing the 
spider and the bush-hen. Molilakwa told me that the same spell 
would be said in the three cases, but neither he, nor anyone 
else, among my informants could give me this spell. The magic 
done in the village, while the shipwrecked men remained in the 
smoky hut, would be all accompanied by the leyya (ginger) 

One incident in the above narrative might have struck the 
reader as contradictory of the general theory of the mulukwausi 
belief, that, namely, where the narrator declares that the party 
on the beach have to wait till nightfall before they enter the 
village. The general belief expressed in all the mulukwausi 
legends, as well as in the taboos of the kayga'u, is that the 
witches are really dangerous only at night, when they can 
see and hear better. Such contradictions, as I have said, are 
often met in native belief, and in this, by the way, the savages 
do not differ from ourselves. My informant, from whom I had 
this version, simply said that such was the rule and the custom, 
and that they had to wait till night. In another account, on 
the other hand, I was told that the party must proceed to the 
village immediately after having performed the several rites on 
the beach, whether night or day. 

There also arises the main question, regarding this narrative, 
to which allusion has been made already, namely, how far does 
it represent the normal behaviour in shipwreck, and how far 
is it a sort of standardised myth ? There is no doubt that 
shipwreck in these seas, surrounded in many parts by islands, is 
not unlikely to end by the party's being saved. This again would 
result in some such explanation as that contained in our narra- 
tive. Naturally, I tried to record all the actual cases of ship- 
wreck within the natives' memory. Some two generations ago, 
one of the chiefs of Omarakana, named Numakala, perished at 
sea, and with him' all his crew. A canoe of another Eastern 
Trobriand village, Tilakaywa, was blown far North, and 
stranded in Kokopawa, from where it was sailed back by its 
crew, when the wind turned to the North- West. Although 
this canoe was not actually shipwrecked, its salvation is 
credited to kayga'u magic, and to the kind fish, iraviyaka. A 
very intelligent informant of mine explained this point of 
view in answer to some of my cavillings : "If this canoe 
had been wrecked, it would have been saved also." 


A party from Muyuwa ( Woodlark Island) were saved on the 
shore of Boyowa, In the South of the Island, several cases are 
on record where canoes were wrecked and saved in the 
d'Entrecasteaux Islands or in the Amphletts. Once the whole 
crew were eaten by cannibals, getting ashore .in a hostile 
district of Fergusson Island, and one man only escaped, and 
ran along the shore, south-eastwards towards Dobu. Thus 
there is a certain amount of historical evidence for the saving 
power of the magic, and the mixture of fanciful -and real 
elements makes our story a good example of what could be 
called standardised or universalized myth that is, a myth 
referring not to one historical event but to a type of occurrence, 
happening universally 

Let us now give the text of the remaining spells which belong 
to the above narrative, but have not been adduced there, so 
as not to spoil its flow. First of all there is the kaytaria spell, 
that which the toliwaga. drifting alongside his crew on the 
detached canoe float, intones in a loud, slow voice, in order to 
attract the iraviyaka. 


" I lie, I shall lie down in my house, a big house. I 
shall sharpen my ear, I shall hear the roaring of the sea 
it foams up, it makes a noise. At the bottom of 
Kausubiyai, come, lift me, take me, bring me to the top of 
Nabonabwana beach." 

Then comes a sentence with mythological allusions 
which I could not succeed in translating. After that 
follows the main part of the spell : 

" The suyusayu fish shall lift me up ; my child, the 
suyusayu shall lift me up ; my child's things, the suyusayu 
shall lift me up ; my basket, etc. ; my lime pot, etc. ; my 
lime spoon, etc. ; my house, etc. ; " repeating the words 
" the suyusayu fish shall lift me up " with various expres- 
sions describing the toliwaga 1 s equipment as well as his 
child, presumably a member of the shipwrecked crew. 

There is no end part to this spell, as it was given to me ; 
only the beginning is repeated after the main part. It is not 
impossible that Molilakwa himself, my informant, did not 


know the spell to the end. Such magic, once learnt by a native, 
never used, and recited perhaps once a year during a mortuary 
ceremony, or occasionally, in order to show off, is easily for- 
gotten. There is a marked difference between the vacillating 
and uncertain way in which such spells are produced by infor- 
mants, and the wonderful precision and the easy flow with 
which, for example, the spells, year after year performed in 
public, will trip off the tongue of the garden magician. 

I cannot give a correct commentary to the mythological 
names Kausubiyai and Nabonabwana, in the first part of the 
spell. What this part means, whether the reclining individual 
who hears the noises of the sea is the magician, or whether it 
represents the sensations of the fish who hears the calling for 
help, I could not make out. The meaning of the middle part is 
plain, however Suyusayu is another name for iraviyaka, 
indeed, its magical n^me used only in spells, and not when 
speaking of it in ordinary conversations. 

The other formula to be given here is the other giyorokaywa 
spell, which would be used in spitting the ginger on the beach 
after rescue, and also in medicating the herbs, which will be put 
on the beach and beaten with a stone This spell is associated 
with the myth of the origin of kayga'u, which must be related 
here, to make the formula clear. 

Near the beginning of time, there lived in Kwayawata, one of 
the Marshall Bennetts, a family strange to our ideas of family 
life, but quite natural in the world of Kiriwinian mythology. It 
consisted of a man, Kalaytaytu, his sister, Isenadoga, and the 
youngest brother, a dog, Tokulubweydoga. Like other mytho- 
logical personages, their names suggest that originally they 
must have conveyed some sort of description. Doga means the 
curved, almost circular, boar's tusk used as ornament. The 
name of the canine member of the family might mean some- 
thing like Man-with-circular-tusks-in-his-head, and his sister's 
name, Woman-ornamented- with-doga. The eldest brother has 
in his name the word taytu, which signifies the staple food 
(small yams) of natives, and a verb, kalay, signifying ' to put on 
ornaments.' Not much profit, however, can be deduced from 
this etymology, as far as I can see, for the interpretation of 
this myth. I shall quote in a literal translation the short 
version of this myth, as I obtained it first, when the information 
was volunteered to me by Molilakwa in Oburaku 



" They live in Kwayawata ; one day Kalaytayta goes 
to fish, gets into a small canoe (kewo'u). Behind him 
swims the dog. He comes to Digumenu. They fish with 
the older brother. They catch fish ! The elder brother 
paddles ; that one again goes behind ; goes, returns to 
Kwayawata. They died ; came Modokei, he learned the 
kayga'u, the inside of Tokulubwaydoga. The name of 
their mother, the mother of Tokulubwaydoga, is 

This little fragment gives a good idea of what the first 
version is, even of so well fixed a piece of narrative as a myth. 
It has to be supplemented by inquiries as to the motives of the 
behaviour of the various personages, as to the relations of one 
event to the other. Thus, further questions revealed that the 
elder brother refused to take the dog with him on this fishing 
expedition. Tokulubwaydoga then determined to go all the 
same, and swam to Digumenu, following the canoe of his 
brother. This latter was astonished to see him, but none the 
less they went to work together. In fishing, the dog was more 
successful than his brother, and thus aroused his jealousy. 
The man then refused to take him back. Tokulubwaydoga 
then jumped into the water, and again swam and arrived 
safely in Kwayawata. The point of the story lies in the fact 
that the dog was able to do the swimming, because he knew 
the kayga'u, otherwise the sharks, mulukwausi, or other evil 
things would have eaten him. He got it from his mother, the 
lady Tobunaygu, who could teach him this magic because she 
was a mulukwausi herself. Another important point about 
this myth, also quite omitted from the first version volunteered 
to me, is its sociological aspect. First of all, there is the very 
interesting incident, unparalleled in Kiriwinian tradition : the 
mother of the three belonged to the Lukwasisiga clan. It was a 
most incongruous thing for a dog, who is the animal of the 
Lukuba clan, to be born into a Lukwasisiga family. However, 
there he was, and so he said : 

" Good, I shall be a Lukuba, this is my clan." 

Now the incident of the quarrel receives its significance in so 
far as the dog, the only one to whom the mother gave the 
kayga'u, did not hand it over to his brother and sister who were 


of the Lukwasisiga clan, and so the magic went down only the 
dog's own clan ; the Lukuba. It must be assumed (though this 
was not known to my informant) that Madokei, who learnt the 
magic from the dog, was also a Lukuba man. 

Like all mythological mother-ancestresses, Tobunaygu had 
no husband, nor does this circumstance call forth any surprise 
or comment on the part of the natives, since the physiological 
aspect of fatherhood is not known among them, as I have 
repeatedly observed. 

As can be seen, by comparing the original fragment, and the 
subsequent amplification by inquiries, the volunteered version 
misses out the most important points. The concatenation of 
events, the origin of the kayga'u, the important sociological 
details, have to be dragged out of the informant, or, to put it 
more correctly, he has to be made to enlarge on points, to roam 
over all the subjects covered by the myth, and from his state- 
ments then, one has to pick out and piece together the other 
bits of the puzzle. On the other hand, the names of the people, 
the unimportant statements of what they did and how they 
were occupied are unfailingly given. 

Let us adduce now the kayga'u, which is said to be derived 
from the dog, and ultimately from his mother : 


" Tobunaygu (repeated), Manemanaygu (repeated), my 
mother a snake, myself a snake ; myself a snake, my 
mother a snake. Tokulubwaydoga, Isenadoga, Matagagai, 
Kalaytaytu ; bulumava'u tabugu Madokei. I shall befog 
the front, I shall shut off the rear ; I shall befog the rear, I 
shall shut off the front." 

This exordium contains at first the invocation of the name 
of the mulukivausi, who was the source of the spell. Its 
pendant Manemanaygu is, according to my informant, 
derived from an archaic word nema, equivalent to the 
present dayjyawa, hand. " As the right hand is to the left 
one, so is Tobunaygu to Manemanaygu," which was 
expressed as a matter of fact in the less grammatically 
worded form ; " this right hand, this left " (clapped 
together) " so Tobunaygu, Manemanaygu." 

Whether this analysis of my informant is correct must 
remain an open question. It must be remembered that 
magic is not taken by the natives as an ethnographic 


document, allowing of interpretations and developments, 
but as an instrument of power. The words are there to 
act, and not to teach. Questions as to the meaning of 
magic, as a rule, puzzled the informants, and therefore it 
is not easy to explain a formula or obtain a correct com- 
mentary upon it. All the same there are some natives 
who obviously have tried to get to the bottom of what the 
various words in magic represent. 

To proceed with our commentary, the phrase " My 
mother a snake, etc.," was thus explained to me by 
Molilakwa : " Supposing we strike a snake, already it 
vanishes, it does not remain ; thus also we human beings, 
when mulukwaiisi catch us, we disappear/' That is, we 
disappear after having spoken this magical formula, for in a 
formula the desired result is always expressed in antici- 
pation. Molilakwa's description of a snake's behaviour is, 
according to my experience, not sound Natural History, 
but it probably expresses the underlying idea, namely the 
elusiveness of the snake, which would naturally be one of 
the metaphorical figures used in the spell. 

The string of words following the invocation of the snake 
are all mythical names, four of which we found mentioned 
in the above myth, while the rest remain obscure. The 
last-named, that of Modokei, is preceded by the words 
bulumavau tabugit, which means, ' recent spirit of my 
ancestor,' which words are as a rule used in spells with 
reference to real grandfathers of the reciters. 

The middle part of the spell proceeds : 

" I shall cover the eyes of the witches of Kitava ; I 
shall cover the eyes of the witches of Kumwageya ; I shall 
cover the eyes of the witches of Iwa ; I shall cover the 
eyes of the witches of Gawa, etc., etc.," enumerating all the 
villages and islands renowned for their witches. This 
list is again recited, substituting for the expression " I 
shall cover," in succession, " I shall befog," and " dew 
envelopes." This middle part needs no commentary. 

The end of this formula runs as follows : 

" I shall kick thy body, I shall take thy spirit skirt, I 
shall cover thy buttocks, I shall take thy mat, a pandanus 
mat, I shall take thy mantle. I shall strike thee with my 
foot, go, fly over Tuma, fly away. I myself in the sea 
(here the reciter's name is mentioned), I shall drift away, 
well." This last part of the spell is so much alike to the 
end of the spell first quoted in this chapter, that no com- 
mentary is needed. 


The mythological and magical data presented in this 
chapter all bear upon the native belief in flying witches and 
dangers at sea, a belief in which elements of reality are strangely 
blended with traditionally fixed fancies, in a way, however, not 
uncommon to human belief in general. It is time now to 
return to our party on the beach at Yakum, who, after having 
spent the night there, next morning rig up their masts, and with 
a favourable wind, soon reach the waters of Gumasila and 



OUR party, sailing from the North, reach first the main island 
of Gumasila, a tall, steep mountain with arched lines and 
great cliffs, suggesting vaguely some huge Gothic monument. 
To the left, a heavy pyramid, the island of Domdom, recedes 
behind the nearer mountain as the travellers approach. The 
fleet now sails along the westerly shore of Gumasila, on which 
side the jungle, interspersed with bald patches, ascends a 
steep slope, ribbed with rocky ridges, and creased by valleys 
which run at their foot into wide bays. Only here and there 
can be seen triangular clearings, signs of cultivation made by 
the natives from the other side of the island, where the two 
villages are situated. At the South-West end of Gumasila, 
a narrow promontory runs into a flat, low point with a sandy 
beach on both sides. On the North side of the point, hidden 
from the villages, the fleet comes to a halt, on the beach of 
Giyawana (called by the Trobrianders Giyasila). This is the 
place where all the fleets, arriving from the North, stop before 
approaching the villages. Here also the inhabitants of the 
Amphletts rest for a day, after the first false start they have 
made from the villages, and before they actually set off for the 
Trobriands. This beach, in short, is the Amphlettan counter- 
part of the sandbank Muwa. It was also here that I surprised 
the Gumasilan canoes on a full moon night, in March, 1918, 
after they had started to join the uvalaku expedition to 

On this beach, the Sinaketans perform the final stage of 
Kula magic, before approaching their partners in Gumasila. 
The same magic will be repeated before arriving in Dobu, and 
as a matter of fact, when the objective of the big uvalaku is 
Dobu, the full and ceremonial performance of the magic might 


usually be deferred till then. It will be better therefore to 
postpone the description of this magic till we have brought our 
fleet to the beach of Sarubwoyna. Here it will be enough to 
mention that on occasions when magic is performed, after an 
hour's or half hour's pause on the beach of Giyawana, all the 
men get into their canoes, take the paddles and oars, and the 
fleet sails round the point where, in a small, very picturesque 
bay, there lies the smaller village of Gumasila, called Nu'agasi 
(see Plate I). This village in olden days was perched on a 
narrow ledge some one hundred metres above the sea level, a 
fastness difficult of access, and overlooking all its approaches. 
Now, after the white man's influence has rendered unnecessary 
all precautions against raiding parties, the village has come 
down to the narrow strip of foreshore, a bridge between the sea 
and a small swamp formed at the foot of the hill. Some of the 
canoes will come to this beach, the others will sail further, 
under a precipitous black rock of some 150 metres high and 
300 metres wide (see Plate XLII). Turning another corner, 
they arrive at the big village of Gumasila, built on artificial 
stone terraces, surrounded by dykes of small stones^ forming 
square lagoons and diminutive harbours (compare the descrip- 
tion given above in Chapter I, Division V). This is the old 
village which, practically inaccessible by sea, formed a fastness 
of a different kind from the other, high-perched villages 
typical of this district. Exposed to the full onslaught of the 
South-Easterly winds and seas, against which it was protected 
by its stone bulwarks and dykes, it was approachable only in all 
weathers by a small channel to the South, where a big rock and a 
reef shelter it from the rough waters. 

Without any preliminary welcoming ceremony or formal 
reception, the Sinaketan guests now leave their canoes and 
disperse among the villagers, settle down in groups near the 
houses of their friends, and engage in betel chewing and 
conversations. They speak in Kiriwinian, a language which 
is universally known in the Amphletts. Almost as soon as they 
go ashore, they give to their partners presents of pari (opening 
gift), some small object, such as a comb, a lime pot, or a lime 
stick. After that, they await some Kula gifts to be given 
them. The most important headman will offer such a gift 
first to Kouta'uya, or To'udawada, whichever of them is the 
toli'uvalaku of the occasion. The soft, penetrating sound of a 












conch-shell soon announces that the first gift has been given. 
Other blasts of conch-shells follow, and the Knla is in full 
swing. But here again, what happens in the Amphletts, is 
only a minor interlude to the Sinaketan adventurers, bent on 
the bigger goal in Dobu. And in order for us to remain in 
harmony with the native perspective we shall also wait for the 
detailed and circumstantial description of the Kula pro- 
ceedings till we arrive on the beach of Tu'utauna, in Dobu. 
The concrete account of how such a visiting fleet is received and 
behaves on arrival will be given, when I describe a scene 
I saw with my own eyes in the village of Nabwageta, another 
Amphlett island, when sixty Dobuan canoes arrived there on 
their uvalaku, en route for Boyowa. 

To give a definite idea of the conversations which take 
place between the visitors and the Amphlettans, I shall give a 
sample noted down, during a visit of some Trobrianders to 
Nu'agasi, the smaller village of Gumasila, A few canoes had 
arrived a day or two before, in the neighbouring island, 
Nabwageta, coming from the small Western islands of the 
Trobriands on a Kula. One of them paddled across to Nu'agasi 
with a crew of some six men, in order to offer pari gifts to their 
partners and see what was to be done in the way of Kula. The 
canoe was sighted from a distance, and its purpose was guessed 
at once, as word had been brought before of the arrival in 
Nabwageta of this small expedition. The headman of 
Nu'agasi, Tovasana, hurried back to his house from my tent, 
where I was taking great pains to obtain some ethnographic 
information from him. 

Tovasana is an outspoken character, and he is the most 
important headman in the Amphletts. I am not using the 
word ' chief/ for in the Amphletts, as I have said, the natives 
do not observe either the court ceremonial with crouching and 
bending, nor do the headmen have any power or economic 
influence, at all comparable with those of the Trobriands. 
Yet, although I came from the Trobriands, I was struck by the 
authoritative tone used, and the amount of influence evidently 
wielded by Tovasana. This is partly due undoubtedly to the 
lack of white man's interference, which has so undermined 
native authority and morality in the Trobriands, whereas the 
Amphletts have so far escaped to a large extent Missionary 
teaching and Government law and order. On the other hand, 


however, the very narrow sphere of his powers, the authority 
over a small village, consolidates the headman's influence. The 
oldest and the most aristocratic by descent of all the headmen, 
he is their acknowledged ' doyen/ 

In order to receive his visitors he went to the beach in front 
of his house and sat there on a log, looking impassively over 
the sea. When the Trobrianders arrived each man took a 
gift and went to his partner's house. The chief did not rise to 
meet them, nor did they come in a body to greet him. The 
toliwaga came towards the place where Tovasana was sitting ; 
he carried a bundle of taro and a piece of gugu'a (objects of 
small value, such as combs, lime pots, etc.) These he laid 
down near the seated headman, who, however, took no notice 
of it. A small boy, a grandchild of Tovasana, I think, took 
up the gifts and put them into his house. Then, without 
having yet exchanged a word, the toliwaga sat down on the 
platform next to Tovasana. Under a shady tree, which 
spread its branches like a canopy above the bleached canoe, 
the men formed a picturesque group sitting cross-legged on the 
platform. Beside the slim, youthful figure of the Kaduwaga 
man, the old Tovasana, with his big, roughly carved features, 
with his large aquiline nose sticking out from under an enormous 
turban-like wig, looked like an old gnome. At first exchanging 
merely a word or two, soon they dropped into more animated 
conversation, and when other villagers and the rest of the 
visitors joined them, the talk became general. As they spoke 
in Kiriwinian, I was able to jot down the beginning of their 

Tovasana asked : 

" Where have you anchored ? " 

" In Nabwageta." 

" When did you come ? " 

" Yesterday." 

" From where did you start on the last day before 
arriving ? " 

" From Gabuwana." 

" When ? " 

" The day before yesterday." 

" What wind ? " 

" Started from home with yavata ; wind changed. 
Arrived on sandbank (Gabuwana) ; we slept ; so-and-so 
made wind magic ; wind changed again ; good wind." 


Then Tovasana asked the visitors about one of the chiefs 
from the island of Kayleula (to the West of Kiriwina), 
and when he was going to give him a big pair of mwali. 
The man answered they do not know ; to their knowledge 
that chief has no big mwali at present. Tovasana became 
very angry, and in a long harangue, lapsing here and there 
into the Gumasila language, he declared that he would 
never hula again with that chief, who' is a topiki (mean 
man), who has owed him for a long time a pair of mwali 
as yotile (return gift), and who always is slow in making 
Kula. A string of other accusations about some day pots 
given by Tovasana to the same chief, and some pigs 
promised and never given, were also made by the angry 
headman. The visitors listened to it with polite assent, 
uttering here and there some noncommital remark. They, 
in their turn, complained about some sago, which they had 
hoped to receive in Nabwageta, but which was churlishly 
refused for some reason or other to all the men of 
Kaduwaga, Kaysiga and Kuyawa. 

Tovasana then asked them, " How long are you going to 
stay ? " 

" Till Dobu men come." 

" They will come," said Tovasana, " not in two days, 
not in three days, not in four days ; they will come 
tomorrow, or at the very last, the day after tomorrow." 

" You go with them to Boyowa ? " 

" I sail first to Vakuta, then to Sinaketa with the Dobu 
men. They sail to Susuwa beach to fish, I go to your 
villages, to Kaduwaga, to Kaysiga, to Kuyawa. Is there 
plenty of mwali in your villages ? " 

" Yes, there are. So-and-so has . . ." 

Here followed a long string of personal names of big 
armshells, the approximate number of smaller, nameless 
ones, and the names of the people in whose possession they 
were at the time. 

The interest of both hearers and speakers was very obvious, 
and Tovasana gave the approximate dates of his movements to 
his visitors. Full moon was approaching, and the natives have 
got names for every day during the week before and after full 
moon, and the following and preceding days can therefore be 
reckoned. Also, every seven-day period within a moon is 
named after the quarter which falls in it. This allows the 
natives to fix dates with a fair exactitude. The present example 
shows the way in which, in olden times, the movements of the 


various expeditions were known over enormous areas ; nowa- 
days, when white men's boats with native crews often move 
from one island to the other, the news spreads even more 
easily. In former tknes, small preliminary expeditions such as 
the one we have just been describing, would fix the dates and 
make arrangements often for as much as a year ahead. 

The Kaduwaga men next inquired as to whether any 
strangers from the Trobriands were then staying in Gumasila. 
The answer was that there was in the village one man from 
Ba'u, and one from Sinaketa Then inquiries were made as to 
how many Kula necklaces there were in Gumasila, and the 
conversation drifted again into Kula technicalities. 

It is quite customary for men from the Trobriands to remain 
for a long time in the Amphletts, that is, from one expedition 
to another. For some weeks or even months, they live in the 
house of their partner, friend, or relative, careful to keep to the 
customs of the country. They will sit about with the men of 
the village and talk. They will help in the work and go out on 
fishing expeditions. These latter will be specially attractive 
to a Trobriander, a keen fisherman himself, who here finds an 
entirely new type of this pursuit. Whether an expedition 
would be made on one of the sandbanks, where the fishermen 
remain for a few days, casting their big nets for dugong and 
turtle ; or whether they would go out in a small canoe, trying 
to catch the jumping gar fish with a fishing kite ; or throwing 
a fish trap into the deep sea all these would be a novelty to the 
Trobriander, accustomed only to the methods suitable to the 
shallow waters of the Lagoon, swarming with fish. 

In one point the Trobriander would probably find his 
sojourn in the Amphletts uncongenial ; he would be entirely 
debarred from any intercourse with women. Accustomed in 
his country to easy intrigues, here he has completely to abstain, 
not only from sexual relations with women married or un- 
married, but even from moving with them socially, in the free 
and happy manner characteristic of Boyowa. One of my main 
informants, Layseta, a Sinaketa man, who spent several years 
in the Amphletts, confessed to me, not without shame and 
regret, that he never succeeded in having any intrigues with 
the women there. To save his face, he claimed that he had 
had several Amphlett belles declaring their love to him, and 
offering their favours, but he always refused them : 


" I feared ; I feared the bowo'u of Gumasila ; they are 
very bad." 

The bowo'u are the local sorcerers of the Amphletts. 
Whatever we might think about Layseta's temptations and 
his personal appearance and charm do not make his boastings 
very credible and whether he was afraid of sorcery or of a 
sound thrashing, the fact remains that a Trobriander would have 
to change his usual mode of behaviour when in the Amphletts, 
and keep away from the women entirely. When big parties 
arrive in Gumasila, or Nabwageta, the women run away, and 
camp in the bush till the beach is clear. 

The Amphlettans, on the contrary, were used to receive 
favours from unmarried women in Sinaketa. Nowadays, the 
male inhabitants of that village, always disapproving of the 
custom, though not to the extent of taking any action, 
tell the Amphlettans that the white man's Government has 
prohibited the men from Gumasila and Nabwageta to have 
sexual relations in Sinaketa. One of the very few occasions, 
when the men from the Amphletts showed any interest in 
talking to me was when they asked me whether this was true. 

" The Sinaketa men tell us that we will go to jail if we 
sleep with girls in Sinaketa. Would the Government put 
us into jail, in truth ? " 

As usually, I simply disclaimed all knowledge of the white 
man's arcana in such matters. 

The small party of Kaduwaga men, whose visit to Tovasana 
I have just been describing, sat there for about two hours, 
smoked and chewed betel-nut, the conversation flagging now 
and then, and the men looking into the distance with the 
habitual self-important expression worn on such occasions. 
After the final words about mutual plans were exchanged, and 
a few pots had been brought by small boys to the canoe as 
talo'i (farewell gift to the visitors), they embarked, and paddled 
back three or four miles across to Nabwageta. 

We must imagine the big Kula party from Sinaketa, whom 
we just watched landing in the two villages of Gumasila, 
behaving more or less in the same manner ; conducting similar 
conversations, offering the same type of pari 'gifts to their 
partners. Only everything happens of course on a much 
bigger scale. There is a big group seated before each house, 


parties walk up and down the village, the sea in front of it 
is covered with the gaudy, heavily laden canoes. In the little 
village, of which Tovasana is headman, the two chiefs, To'uda- 
wada and Kouta'uya, will be seated on the same platform, on 
which we saw the old man receiving his other guests. The 
other headmen of the Sinaketans will have gone to the bigger 
village round the corner, and will encamp there under the tall 
palms, looking across the straits towards the pyramidal forms of 
Domdom, and further South, to the main island fronting them 
with the majestic form of Koyatabu. Here, among the small 
houses on piles, scattered picturesquely through the maze of 
little harbours, lagoons and dykes, large groups of people will 
be seated on mats of plaited coco-nut, each man as a rule under 
the dwelling of his partner, chewing betel-nut stolidly, and 
watching stealthily the pots being brought out to be presented 
to them, and still more eagerly awaiting the giving of Kula 
gifts, although he remains to a superficial glance quite 


In Chapter III I spoke about the sociology of Kula, and 
gave a concise definition of partnership with its functions and 
obligations. I said there that people enter into this relation- 
ship in a definite manner, and remain in it for the rest of their 
life. I also said that the number of partners a man possesses, 
depends upon his social position and rank. The protective 
character of an overseas partner becomes now clearer, after we 
have realised the nervous tension with which each Kula party 
in olden days would have approached a land full of mulukwausi, 
bowo'u and other forms of sorcery, a land from which originate 
the very tauva'u themselves.* To have a friend there, one 
who will not on the surface of it have bad intentions, is a great 
boon. What this really means to the natives can, however, 
only be realised when we arrive at Dobu, learn the special 
safety magic performed there and find how genuinely serious 
these apprehensions are. 

We must now make another short digression from our con- 
secutive account, and discuss the several aspects of the sociology 
of the Kula one after the other. 

* See Chapter II, Division VII. 


1. Sociological Limitations to the Participation in the Kula. 
Not everyone who lives within the cultural sphere of the Kula 
does participate in it. More especially in the Trobriand Islands, 
there are whole districts which do not practise the Kula. Thus 
a series of villages in the North of the main Island, the villages 
on the Island of Tuma, as well as the industrial villages of 
Kuboma and the agricultural ones of Tilataula do not practise 
Kula. In villages like Sinaketa, Vakuta, Gumasila and 
Nabwageta, every man carries on the Kula.. The same applies 
to the small Islands which link up the big gaps of the Kula 
chain, the Islands of Kitava, Iwa, Gawa and Kwayawata, 
strewn on the seas between the Trobriands and Woodlark 
Island, to Tubetube and Wari, etc., etc. In the Dobuan 
speaking district, on the other hand, I think that certain village 
complexes either do not practice Kula at all, or else practice 
it on a small scale, that is, their headmen have only a few 
partners in the neighbouring villages. 

In some of the big chiefs' villages in Kinwina there 
are certain people who never practice Kula. Thus in 
a village where the headman has the rank of guya'u 
(chief) or gumguya'u (minor chief) the commoners of the 
lowest rank and unrelated to the headman are not sup- 
posed to carry on the Kula. In olden days this rule would 
be very strictly observed, and nowadays even, though some- 
what relaxed, not many commoners of this description practice 
the Kula. Limitations as to entry into the Kula, therefore, 
exist only in big Kula districts such as that of Dobn and of the 
Trobriands, and they are partly local, excluding whole 
villages, and partly social, excluding certain people of low 

2. The Relation of Partnership. The name for an overseas 
partner is in the Trobriand language karayta'u ; ' my partner ' 
is styled ulo karayta'u, ulo being the possessive pronoun of 
remote relation. In Gumasila he is called ulo ta'u, which means 
simply ' my man ' ; in Dobuan, yegu gumagi The inland 
partners are known in Kiriwinian by the term denoting a friend, 
' lubaygu,' the suffixed possessive pronoun gu being that of 
nearest possession. 

Only after this relationship has been established between 
two men, can the two make Kula with one another. An 
overseas visitor would as a rule go to his partner's house and 


offer him a small present as pari. This again would be returned 
by the local man by means of a talo'i present There would 
not be any great intimacy between two overseas partners. But, 
in sharp contrast to the essential hostility between two strange 
tribesmen, such a relationship of friendship would stand out as 
the most remarkable deviation from the general rule. In inland 
relations between two partners of neighbouring villages, the 
closeness and intimacy would be relatively small as com- 
pared to other ties. This relation was denned to me in 
these words : 

" My partner same as my clansman (kakaveyogu) he 
might fight me. My real kinsman (veyogu), same navel- 
string, would always side with us." 

The best way of obtaining detailed information, and of 
eliminating any errors which might have crept into ethno- 
graphic generalisations, is to collect concrete data. I have 
drawn up a complete list of the partners of Kouta'uya, who is 
one of the biggest Kula men in the whole Ring ; another list 
of a smaller Sinaketa headman, Toybayoba ; and of course I 
know several complements of partners of smaller men, who, as 
as rule, have about four to six partners each. 

The full list of Kouta'uya includes fifty-five men in the 
Northern Half of Boyowa, that is, in Luba, Kulumata and 
Kiriwina. From these the chief receives armshells. To the 
South, his partners in the Southern districts of Boyowa and 
Vakuta are twenty-three by number ; in the Amphletts eleven, 
and twenty-seven in Dobu. Thus we see that the numbers to 
the South and North almost balance, the Southern exceeding 
the Northern by six. These numbers include his partners in 
Sinaketa, where he makes Kula with all his fellow chiefs, and 
with all the headmen of the divisional villages, and in his own 
little village he kulas with his sons. But even there, everyone 
of his partners is either South or North to him, that is, either 
gives him the necklaces or armshells. 

All the clans are represented in the list. Often when asked 
with regard to the name of some man, why he is in partnership 
with him, the answer would be " Because he is my kinsman," 
which means, in this case, clansman of equal rank. Men of 
other clans are included, as ' friends/ or relatives-m-law, or 
for some other reason more or less imaginary. I shall speak 


presently of the mechanism through which the man enters on 
this relation. 

The list of Toybayoba's partners includes twelve men to the 
North, four in Southern Boyowa, three in the Amphletts and 
eleven in Dobu, the balance here also being on the Southern side. 
As said above, minor men might have anything between four to 
ten partners all told, whereas there are men in northern Boyowa 
who have only two partners, one on each side of the ring, so 
to speak, with whom they make Kula. 

In drawing up these lists, which I shall not reproduce here 
in extenso, another striking feature comes to light : on both 
sides, there is a definite geographical limit, beyond which a 
man cannot have any partners. For all men in the village of 
Sinaketa, for instance, this limit, as regards the armshells, 
coincides with the furthest boundary of Kiriwina ; that is, no 
man from Sinaketa has any partners in Kitava, which is the 
next Kula district beyond Kiriwina. South, in the direction 
from which the soulava are received, the villages at the South- 
East end of Fergusson Island are the last places where partners 
of Sinaketan men are still to be found. The small Island of 
Dobu itself lies just beyond this boundary, and no man in this 
Island or in any of the villages on Normanby Island makes 
Kula with the Sinaketans (compare the circles, indicating Kula 
Communities on Map V). 

Beyond these districts, the men still know the names of 
what could be called their partners-once-removed, that is, 
the partners of their partners. In the case of a man who has 
only a couple of partners on each side, who, again being modest 
men, have also only one or two, this relationship is not devoid of 
importance. If I, in Sinaketa, have one partner, say in 
Kiriwina, who again has one partner in Kitava, it is no small 
matter for me to learn that this Kitava man just obtained 
a splendid pair of armshells. For this means that there is about 
a quarter of a chance of my receiving these armshells, on the 
supposition that the Kitavan and Kiriwinian have two partners 
each between whom they can choose in bestowing them. In 
the case of a big chief like Kouta'uya, however, the number of 
once-removed partners becomes so great that they lose any 
personal significance for him. Kouta'uya has some twenty-five 
partners in Kiriwina ; among them To'uluwa, the big chief, 
makes Kula with more than half of all the men in Kitava 


Some other of Kouta'uya's partners in Kiriwina, of lesser rank, 
yet quite important, also make Kula with a great number, so 
that probably practically everybody in Kitava is Kouta'uya's 

If we were to imagine that on the Kula Ring there are many 
people who have only one partner on each side, then the Ring 
would consist of a large number of closed circuits, on each of 
which the same articles would constantly pass. Thus if A in 
Kiriwina always kulas with B in Sinaketa who kulas with C 
in Tubetube, who kulas with D in Murua, who kulas with E 
in Kitava, who kulas with A in Kiriwina, then A B C D E F 
would form such one strand in the big Kula circuit. If an 
armshell got into the hands of one of them, it could never leave 
this strand. But the Kula Ring is nothing approaching this, 
because every small Kula partner has, as a rule, on one side or 
the other, a big one, that is a chief. And every chief plays the 
part of a shunting-station for Kula objects. Having so many 
partners on each side, he constantly transfers an object from 
one strand to another. Thus, any article which on its rounds 
has travelled through the hands of certain men, may on its 
second round come through an entirely different channel. 
This, of course, supplies a large part of the zest and excitement 
of the Kula exchange. 

The designation of such a partner-once-removed in the 
language of Kiriwina is muri-muri. A man will say that such 
and such a one is ' my partner-once-removed/ ' ulo murimuri.' 
Another expression connected with this relationship is to inquire 
' whose hand ' has passed on such and such a vaygu'a. When 
To'uluwa gives a pair of armshells to Kouta'uya, this latter 
will ask : ' availe yamala (whose hand) ' ? The answer is 
' yamala Pwata'i,' (' the hand of Pwatai '). And, as a rule, 
more or less the following conversation will ensue : " who 
gave this pair of armshells to Pwata'i ? " "how long were they 
kept by a man in the Island of Yeguma, and then distributed 
on the occasion of a so'i (feast) ? " " when they had been 
the last time in Boyowa ? " etc., etc. 

3. Entering the Kula Relationship. In order to become a 
practising member of the Kula, a man must have passed the 
stage of adolescence ; he must have the status and rank required, 
that is in such villages where this condition is demanded ; 
he must know the magic of the Kula ; and last, not least, he 


must be in possession of a piece of vaygu'a The membership, 
with all its concomitant implications, may be received from the 
father, who teaches his son the magic, gives him a piece of 
vaygu'a, and provides him with a partner, very often in his 
own person. 

Supposing one of the sons of Kouta'uya has reached the 
stage where a lad may begin to hula. The chief will have been 
teaching him the spells for some time already. Moreover the 
lad, who from childhood has taken part in overseas expeditions, 
has many a time seen the rites performed and heard the spells 
uttered. When the time is ripe, Kouta'uya, having the conch- 
shell blown, and with all due formalities, presents a soulava to 
his son. This latter, soon afterwards, goes somewhere North. 
Perhaps he goes only to one of the neighbouring villages within 
Sinaketa, perhaps he accompanies his father on a visit as far 
North as Omarakana, and in any case he makes Kula, either 
with one of his father's friends and partners, or with a special 
friend of his own. Thus, at one stroke, the lad is equipped with 
magic, vaygu'a, and two partners, one of whom is his father. 
His northern partner will give him in due course an armshell, 
and this he will probably offer to his father. The transactions 
once started continue. His father soon gives him another 
vaygua, which he may hula with the same northern partner, or 
he may try to establish another partnership. The next 
mwali (armshells) he receives from the North, he will probably 
give to another partner in the South, and thus establish a new 
relationship. A chief's son, who is always a commoner 
himself (since the chief cannot marry within his own sub-clan 
and the son has the status of his mother), would not multiply his 
partners beyond the limit numerically given by the above 
mentioned partners of Toybayoba. 

Not everyone, however, is as fortunate as to be the son of a 
chief, which in the Trobriands is, on the whole, one of the 
most enviable positions, since it confers many privileges, and 
entails no special responsibilities. A young chief himself 
would have to pay substantially for establishing his position in 
the Kula, for a chief is always the son of a woman of high rank, 
and the nephew of a chief, though his father may be a commoner 
of small influence only. In any case, his maternal uncle will 
expect from him some pokala (offerings by instalment), in pay- 
ment for magic, vaygu'a, and finally for a leading position in 


the Kula. The young chief would marry, and thus acquire 
wealth within limits, and with this he would have to give 
presents to his maternal uncle, who in turn would introduce 
him into the Kula, exactly as a chief does his son, only not dis- 

A commoner enters into the Kula like a chief, with the only 
exception that everything is on a smaller scale, the amount of 
the pokala which he gives to his maternal uncle, the vaygu'a 
which he receives, and the number of partners with whom he 
kulas. When a man gives to another a piece of vaygu'a, of the 
Kula kind, but not as a Kula exchange but as a gift, let us say as 
youlo (gift in repayment for the harvest supply offerings, see 
above, Chapter VI, Division VI), this vaygu'a does not leave 
the Kula Ring. The receiver, if he had not been in the Kula 
yet, enters into it by acquiring the vaygu'a, and can then choose 
his partner, and go on with the exchange. 

There is one important qualification of the statement 
made at the beginning of this section. I said there that a man 
entering the Kula Ring, must learn the mwasila magic. This 
refers only to those who practise overseas Kula. For people 
who do only the inland exchange, magic is not necessary, and in 
fact it is never learned by them. 

4. Participation of Women in the Kula. As I have said in 
the general descriptive chapter on the Kula tribes, the position 
of women among them is by no means characterised by oppres- 
sion or social insignificance. They have their own sphere of 
influence, which, in certain cases and in certain tribes, is of great 
importance. The Kula, however, is essentially a man's type of 
activity. As mentioned above, in the section between 
Sinaketa and Dobu, women do not sail on the big expeditions. 
From Kiriwina young, unmarried girls would sail East to 
Kitava, Iwa, and Gawa, and from these Islands even old, 
married women, indeed whole families, come to Kiriwina. 
But they do not carry on overseas Kula exchange, neither 
among themselves, nor with men. 

In Kiriwina, some women, notably the chief's wives, are 
admitted to the honour and privilege of exchanging vaygu'a, 
though in such cases the transactions are done en famille. To 
take a concrete case, in October or November, 1915, To'uluwa, 
the chief of Omarakana, brought a fine haul of mwali from 
Kitava. The best pair of these he presented to his veteran wife, 


Bokuyoba, a wife whom he had inherited from his elder brother 
Numakala. Bokuyoba in turn gave the pair, without much 
delay, to Kadamwasila, the favourite wife of the chief, the 
mother of five sons and one daughter. She again gave it to her 
son, Namwana Guyau, who kula'd it on to some of his southern 
partners. Next time he receives a soulava necklace, he will 
give it, not to his father directly, but to his mother, who will 
hand it over to her senior colleague, and this venerable lady will 
give it to To'uluwa. The whole transaction is evidently a 
complimentary interpolation of the two giyovila (chief's wives) 
in between the simple transaction of the chief giving the 
vaygu'a to his son. This interpolation gives the women much 
pleasure, and is highly valued by them. In fact, at that time 
I heard more about that than about all the rest of the exchanges 
associated with this overseas trip. 

In Southern Boyowa, that is in Sinaketa and Vakuta, the 
role of women is similar, but they play besides another part. 
A man would sometimes send his wife with a Kula gift to his 
partner in the neighbouring village On some occasions, when 
he needs vaygu'a very badly, as for instance when he is expecting 
some uvalaku visitors, his wife may help him to obtain the 
vaygu'a from that partner. For, though this latter might 
refuse to give it to his Sinaketan partner, he would not do so to 
his wife. It must be added that no sexual motives are associ- 
ated with it, and that it is only a sort of customary compliment 
paid to the fair sex. 

In Dobu, the wife, or the sister of a man, is always credited 
with a great influence over his Kula decisions. Therefore, 
there is a special form of magic, used by the Sinaketans, in 
order to act on the minds of the Dobuan women. Although, 
in matters of sex, a Trobriander would have absolutely to keep 
aloof from Dobuan women, married or unmarried, he would 
approach them with nice speeches and gifts in matters of Kula. 
He would reproach an unmarried girl with her brother's 
conduct towards him. She would then ask for a piece of betel 
nut. This would be given with some magic spoken over it, and 
the girl, it is believed, would then influence her brother to kula 
with his partner.* 

* I cannot tell what sort of influence this would be, exercised by a sister 
over her brother in Dobu. I do not even know whether, in that district, there 
obtains the same taboo between brother and sister as in the Trobriands. 



In the short outline of the Amphlett tribe which was given 
in Chapter II, Division IV, I called them ' typical monopolists/ 
both with reference to their economic position and to their 
character. Monopolists they are in two respects, namely as 
manufacturers of the wonderful clay pots which form the only 
supply for the surrounding districts ; and in the second place, 
as a commercial community, situated half-way between the 
populous country of Dobu, with its rich gardens and coco-nut 
plantations, on the one hand, and the Trobriands, the main 
industrial community in Eastern New Guinea on the other. 

The expression ' monopolists ' must, however, be correctly 
understood. The Amphletts are not a centre of commercial 
middle-men, constantly busy importing and exporting desirable 
utilities. Only about once or twice a year, a big expedition 
comes to their Islands, and every few months they themselves 
will sail South-East or North and again receive visits from 
smaller expeditions from one of the neighbours or the other. It 
is through just such small expeditions that they collect a relat- 
tively considerable amount of utilities from all surrounding 
districts, and these they can give to such visitors as need and 
desire them. Nor would they impose high prices on any such 
exchange, but they are certainly considered less liberal, less 
ready to give or to trade and always on the look out for higher 
return gifts and extras. In their bartering away of the clay 
pots, they also cannot ask extortionate prices, such as, according 
to the laws of supply and demand, they could impose on their 
neighbours. For, no more than any other natives, can they run 
counter to customary rules, which regulate this exchange as 
much as all others. Indeed, considering the great amount 
of trouble which they have in obtaining the clay, and the high 
degree of skill necessary to produce the pots, the prices for 
which they sell them are very low. But here again, their 
manners over this transaction are distinctly haughty, and they 
are well aware of their value as potters and distributors of pots 
to the other natives. 

A few more words must be said about their pot making 
industry as well as about the trade in these islands. 

The natives of the Amphletts are exclusive manufacturers 
of pottery, within a wide radius. They are the only purveyors 


to the Trobrianders, to the inhabitants of the Marshall Bennett 
Islands, and also, I believe, all the claypots in Woodlark come 
from the Amphletts.* To the South, they export their pots to 
Dobu, Du'a'u, and further South as far as Milne Bay. This 
is not all, however, for although in some of these farther 
districts the Amphlett pots are used side by side with other 
ones, they are infinitely superior to any earthenware found in 
the whole of British New Guinea. Of a large size, yet extremely 
thin, they possess great durability, and in form they are 
extremely well shaped and finished (see Plate XLVI). 

The best Amphlett pots owe their high quality to the 
excellence oi their material as well as their workmanship. 
The clay for them has to be imported into the Islands from 
Yayawana, a quarry on the Northern shore of Fergusson 
Island, about a day's journey from the Amphletts. Only a 
very inferior clay can be found in the islands of Gumasila and 
Nabwageta, good enough to make small pots, but quite useless 
for the big ones. 

There is a legend, explaining why the good clay cannot be 
obtained nowadays in the Amphletts. In olden days, two 
brothers, Torosipupu and Tolikilaki, lived on one of the 
summits of Gumasila called Tomonumonu. There was plenty 
of fine clay there at that time. One day Torosipupu went to 
fish with a trap. He caught a very fine giant clam-shell. 
When he came back, Tolikilaki said : " O my shell ! I shall eat 
it ! " Torosipupu refused it and answered with a very obscene 
allusion to the bivalvular mollusc and to the uses he was going 
to make of it. Tolikilaki asked again ; Torosipupu refused. 
They quarrelled. Tolikilaki then took part of the clay with 
him, and went to Yayawana on the main island. Torosipupu 
afterwards took the rest and followed him. What were their 
further destinies, the legend does not say. But on Gumasila 
there remained only very poor clay, which is all that can be 
found there ever since. 

Since then, the men have to go about twice yearly to 
Yayawana in order to bring the clay from which the women 
afterwards will manufacture the pots. It takes them aboiit a 
day to reach Yayawana, to which, as it lies to the South West, 

* This is the information which I obtained during my short visit to Murua 
(Woodlark Island), and which was confirmed by the Trobriand islanders. 
Professor Seligmann states, also, that the sepulchral pots, found in this island 
come from the Amphletts. Op, cit., p. 731. Compare also pp. 15 and 535. 


they can travel with any of the prevailing winds and return 
equally well. They remain for a couple of days there, digging 
the clay, drying it and filling a few vataga baskets with it. 
I estimate that each canoe carries about two ton weight on its 
return journey. This will last the women for half a year's 
production. The pale, straw-coloured clay is kept under the 
houses in big troughs made of sides of discarded canoes. 

In olden days, before the white man's advent, the con- 
ditions were a little more complicated. Only one island, 
Kwatouto, being on friendly terms with the natives had the 
freedom of the Northern shore. Whether the other islands 
used also to fetch the clay from there, doing so armed and 
ready for attack ; or whether they used to acquire the clay by 
barter from Kwatouto, I could not definitely establish. The 
information one receives in the Amphletts is exceedingly 
unsatisfactory, and my several informants gave contradictory 
accounts on this point. The fact seems clear, in my case, that 
Kwatouto, then as now, was the source of the best pottery, but 
that both Gumasila and Nabwageta also always manufactured 
pots, though perhaps inferior ones. The fourth island, 
Domdom, never participated in this trade, and up to the present 
there is not a single woman in Domdom who can shape a pot. 

The manufucturing of this article, as said, is exclusively 
the work of women. They sit in groups of two or three under 
the houses, surrounded by big clumps of clay and the imple- 
ments of their craft, and produce in these very shabby and 
mean conditions, veritable masterpieces of their art. Person- 
ally I had only the opportunity of seeing groups of very old 
women at work, although I spent about a month in the 

With regard to the technology of pot-making, the method 
is that of fiist roughly moulding the clay into its form and then 
beating with a spatula and subsequently scraping the walls 
to the required thinness with a mussel-shell. To give the 
description in detail, a woman starts first by kneading a certain 
amount of clay for a long time. Of this material she makes 
two semi-circular clumps, or several clumps, if a big pot is to 
be made. These clumps are then placed m a ring, touching one 
another upon a fiat stone or board, so that they form a thick, 
circular roll (Plate XLIV, top). The woman now begins to 
work this roll with both hands, gradually pressing it together, 



icture : the clumps of clay have been put in a circle and joined up, forming a thick, 

op pic 

ircular roll Bottom picture : the roll is being worked upwards, caving in all round. (Sec 

Div. III.) 



Top picture : the dome-shaped mass of clay is worked near the hole in the top ; presently the 

latter will be closed, and, as this is a small pot, only after that is the pot beaten, as shown in the 

picture below. (See Div. III.) 


and at the same time bringing it up all round into a slanting wall 
(see Plate XLIV, bottom). Her left hand works as a rule on the 
inside, and her right on the outside of this wall ; gradually 
it begins to shape into a semi-spherical dome. On the top of 
the dome there is a hole, through which the woman thrusts 
her left hand, working with it on the inside, of the dome (see 
Plate XLV, top). At first the main movements of her hands 
were from downward up, flattening out the rolls into thin walls. 
The traces of her fingers going up and down on the outside leave 
longitudinal furrows (see details on Plate XLV, top). 
Towards the end of this stage her hands move round and round, 
leaving concentric, horizontal marks on the dome. This is 
continued until the pot has assumed a good curvature all round. 

It seems almost a miracle to see how, in a relatively short 
time, out of this after all brittle material, and with no imple- 
ments whatever, a woman will shape a practically faultless 
hemisphere, often up to a metre in diameter. 

After the required shape has been obtained the woman 
takes a small spatula of light-wood into her right hand and she 
proceeds to tap the clay gently (see Plate XLV, bottom). This 
stage lasts a fairly long time, for big pots about an hour. After 
the dome has been sufficiently worked in this way small 
pieces of clay are gradually fitted in at the top, closing the 
orifice, and the top of the dome is beaten again. In the case 
of small pots the beating is done only after the orifice has been 
closed. The pot is put with the mat into the sun, where it 
remains for a day or two to harden. It is then turned round, 
so that its mouth is now uppermost, and its bottom is carefully 
placed into a basket. Then, round the rim of the mouth, a 
flat strip of clay is placed horizontally, turned towards the 
inside, forming a graceful lip Three small lumps of clay are 
put 120 distance from each other near the lip as ornaments, 
and, with a pointed stick, a design is scratched in round the lip 
and sometimes down the outside of the body. In this state 
the pot is again left in the sun for some length of time. 

After it has sufficiently hardened to be handled with safety, 
though it must be done with the utmost care, it is placed on 
some dried sticks, mouth downwards, supported by stones put 
between the sticks. It is surrounded with twigs and pieces of 
wood on its outside, fire is kindled, the sticks below bake it 
from the inside, and those from above on the outside. The 


final result is a beautiful pot, of a brick red colour when new, 
though after several uses it becomes completely black. Its 
shape is not quite semi-spherical ; it is rather half an elipsoid, 
like the broader half of an egg, cut off in the middle. The 
whole gives the feeling of perfection in form and of elegance, 
unparalleled in any South Sea pottery, I know (see Plate XL VI) 

These pots in Kiriwinian language kuria, are called^by the 
Amphlett natives kuyana or va'ega. The biggest specimens are 
about a metre across their mouth, and some sixty centimetres 
deep ; they are used exclusively for the ceremonial cooking of 
mona (see Plate XXXV), and are called kwoylamona (in the 
Amphletts : nokunu). The second size kwoylakalagila (in the 
Amphletts, nopa'eva) are used for ordinary boiling of yams or 
taro. Kwoylugwawaga (Amphletts, nobadala), are used for the 
same purposes but are much smaller. An especial size, 
kwoylamegwa (Amphletts, nosipoma) are used in sorcery. The 
smallest ones, which I do not remember ever having seen in 
the Trobriands though there is a Trobriand word for them, 
kwoylakekita, are used for everyday cooking in the Amphletts 
where they are called va'ega, in the narrower sense of the 

I have expatiated on this singular and artistic achievement 
of the natives of the Amphletts, because from all points of 
view it is important to know the details of a craft so far in 
advance of any similar achievement within the Melanesian 

A few words must now be said about trade in the Amphletts. 
The central position of this little archipelago situated between, 
on one side, the big, flat, extremely fertile coral islands, which, 
however, are deprived of many indispensable, natural 
resources ; and on the other, the rich jungle and varied mineral 
supplies of the volcanic regions in the d'Entrecasteaux archi- 
pelago, indicates on which lines this trade would be likely to 
develop. To this natural inequality between them and their 
neighbours are added social elements. The Trobrianders are 
skilful, industrious, and economically highly organised. In this 
respect, even the Dobuans stand on a lower level, and the other 
inhabitants of the d'Entrecasteaux much more so. 

If we imagine a commercial diagram drawn on the map, we 
would first of all notice the export in pottery, radiating from 
the Amphletts as its source. In the inverse direction, flowing 


towards them, would be imports in food such as sago, pigs, 
coco-nut, betel-nut, taro and yams. An article very important 
in olden days, which had to be imported into the Amphletts, 
was the stone for implements coming via the Trobriands from 
Woodlark Island. These indeed would be traded on by the 
Amphlettans, as all the d'Entrecasteaux relied, for the most 
part at least, on the imports from Woodlark, according to 
information I obtained in the Amphletts. The Amphlett 
islands further depended on the Trobriands for the following 
articles : wooden dishes, manufactured in Bwoytalu ; lime-pots 
manufactured in several villages of Kuboma ; three-tiered 
baskets and folding baskets, made in Luya ; ebony lime 
pots and mussel shells, these latter fished mainly by the village 
of Kavataria in the lagoon. These articles were paid for, or 
matched as presents by the following ones : first of all, of course 
the pots ; secondly, turtle-shell earrings, special nose sticks, 
red ochre, pummice stone and obsidian, all of these obtainable 
locally. Further, the natives of the Amphletts procured on 
Fergusson Island, for the Trobrianders, wild banana seeds used 
for necklaces, strips of rattan used as belts and for lashing, 
feathers of the cassowary and red parrot, used for dancing 
decorations, plaited fibre-belts, bamboo and barbed spears. 

It may be added that in olden days, the natives in the 
Amphletts would not sail freely to all the places on the main 
island. Each Amphlett village community had a district on 
the mainland, with which they were on friendly terms and with 
which they could trade without incurring any danger. Thus, 
as said above, only the village of Kwatouto, in the southern- 
most inhabited Amphlett island, was free to go unmolested to 
the district round Yayawana, from whence they obtained 
the pale yellow clay, so excellent for pottery. The natives of 
Nabwageta had a few villages eastwards from Yayawana to 
deal with, and those of Gumasiia went further East still. 
Domdom natives were never great traders or sailors. The 
trading conditions in the islands were further complicated by 
the constant internal quarrels and warfare between the 
districts. Kwatouto and Domdom on the one side, Gumasiia 
and Nabwageta on the other were allies, and between these 
two factions there was a constant, smouldering hostility, 
preventing any development of friendly commercial intercourse, 
and breaking out now and then into open warfare. This was 


the reason why the villages were all perched on high, inacces- 
sible ledges, or like Gumasila, were built so as to be protected 
by the sea and reefs from attack. 

The influence of the surrounding great districts, that is, 
of the Trobriands and of Dobu upon the Amphletts neither was 
nor is merely commercial. From the limited linguistic 
material collected in the Amphletts, I can only say th^t their 
language is related both to that of the Trobriands and of Dobu. 
Their social organisation resembles closely that of the Trobri- 
anders with the exception of chieftainship, which is lacking in 
the Amphletts. In their beliefs as to sorcery, spirits, etc., 
they seem to be more akin to the Dobuans than to the Trobri- 
anders. Their canoe magic has come form the Trobriands, 
but the art of building their canoes is that of Dobu, which as 
we have seen before is also the one adopted by the Trobnanders. 
The magic of the Kula, known in the Amphletts, is partly 
adopted from the Trobriands, and partly from Dobu. There 
is only one indigenous system of magic which originated in the 
islands. Long ago there lived a man of the Malasi clan, who 
had his abode in the rock of Selawaya, which stands out of the 
jungle, above the big village of Gumasila. This man knew the 
magic of ayowa, which is the name given to mwasila (Kula 
magic) in the language of the Amphletts and of Dobu. Some 
people passed near the stone while it was being recited within 
it ; they learned it, and handed it over to their descendants. 


One more point of importance must be mentioned here, a 
point bearing upon the intertribal relations in this district. As 
we saw, some Trobriand people remain sometimes on prolonged 
visits in the Amphletts. This custom, however, is never 
reciprocated, and people from the Amphletts never visit for 
any length of time their Northern neighbours. The same 
refers to the relations between the Trobriands and the district 
of Dobu. In discussing the lists of Kula partners of Kouta'uya 
and Toybayoba, I was told about some of their Southern 
partners, that they were veyola (maternal kinsmen) of my 
informant. On further inquiry it appeared that these people 
were emigrants from the Trobriands, who settled down in 
Tewara, Sanaroa or the big Dobuan settlements on the North- 
West shores of Dawson Straits. 





When I asked whether, on the contrary, there were any cases 
of Dobuans settling in Boyowa, it was emphatically denied that 
such a thing could happen. And indeed, in the numerous 
genealogical data which I have collected from all over the 
district, there is no trace of migration from the South, although 
frequent migrations occur within the district and some from 
the Marshall Bennett Islands. In general, all these migrations 
within the Trobriands show also a marked tendency to move 
form North to South. Thus, the most aristocratic sub-clan, 
the Tabalu, originated in the Northernmost village of Laba'i. 
But now their stronghold is further South in Omarakana, and 
the members of the same sub-clan are ruling in Olivilevi, and 
Tukwa'ukwa, that is in the middle of the island. Some of 
them even migrated as far South as Vakuta, where they 
established a feeble imitation of chieftainship, never being able 
to subdue the other natives to any extent. Several sub-clans, 
now firmly established in the Middle and Southern portions of 
the island, trace their descent from the North, and in the 
Amphletts there are also a couple of cases of sub-clans immi- 
grated from Boyowa. 

In contrast to this migration of people from North to 
South, we have noted the spread of one of the main cultural 
elements, of the canoe, from South to North. We saw how the 
nagega, the big, sea-worthy, but heavy and slow canoe has been 
superseded by the masawa or tadobu, which spread a few genera- 
tions ago, till it arrived at the island of Kitava. It is more 
difficult to follow the movements of beliefs But I have reason 
to assume that beliefs in sorcery, more especially in the 
mulukwausi and tauva'u, move from South to North. 

In the next Chapter, we shall return to our Sinaketan 
expedition, in order to move them for a short distance along 
their route into the first settlements of the Dobu speaking 
people These places will suggest a new theme for a lengthy 
digression, this time into the mythological subjects and legends 
connected with the Kula. 





AT daybreak the party leave the Amphletts. This is the 
stage when the parting gifts, the talo'i are given. The clay pots, 
the several kinds of produce of the islands and of the Koya, 
which had been laid aside the previous day, are now brought 
to the canoes (see Plate XLVII). Neither the giver nor the 
main receiver, the toliwaga, take much notice of the pro- 
ceedings, great nonchalance about give and take being the 
correct attitude prescribed by good manners. Children bring 
the objects, and the junior members of the crew stow 
them away. The general behaviour of the crowds, ashore 
and in the canoes, is as unostentatious at this moment of 
parting as it was at the arrival. No more farewells than 
greetings are spoken or shouted, nor are there any visible or 
formal signs of grief, or of hope of meeting again, or of any other 
emotions. The busy, self-absorbed crews push off stolidly, step 
the mast, set sail, and glide away. 

They now approach the broad front of Koyatabu, which 
with a favourable wind, they might reach within two hours 
or so. They probably sail near enough to get a clear view of the 
big trees standing on the edge of the jungle, and of the long 
waterfall dividing the mountain's flank right down the middle ; 
of the triangular patches under cultivation, covered with the 
vine of yams and big leaves of taro. They could also perceive 
here and there smoke curling out of the jungle where, 
hidden under the trees, there lies a village, composed of a few 
miserable huts. Nowadays these villages have come down to 
the water's edge, in order to supplement their garden yield with 
fish. In olden days they were all high up on the slope, and 
their huts hardly ever visible from the sea. 


The inhabitants of these small and ramshackle villages are 
shy and timid, though in olden days they would have been 
dangerous to the Trobrianders. They speak a language which 
differs from that of Dobu and is usually called by the natives 
' the Basima talk.' There seem to be about four or five various 
languages on the island of Fergusson, besides that of Dobu. 
My acquaintance with the Basima natives is very small, due 
only to two forced landings in their district. They struck 
me as being physically of a different type from the Dobuans, 
though this is only an impression. They have got no boats, and 
do the little sailing they require on small rafts of three or five 
logs tied together. Their houses are smaller and less well- 
made than those in Dobu. Further investigation of these 
natives would be very interesting, and probably also very 
difficult, as is always the case when studying very small com- 
munities, living at the same time right out of touch with any 
white man. 

This land must remain, for the present anyhow, veiled for 
ourselves, as it also is for the Trobriand natives. For these, 
indeed, the few attempts which they occasionally made to 
come into contact with these natives, and the few mishaps 
which brought them to their shores, were all far from encourag- 
ing in results, and only strengthened the traditional super- 
stitious fear of them. Several generations ago, a canoe or two 
from Burakwa, in the island of Kayeula, made an exploring trip 
to the district of Gabu, lying in a wide bay under the North- 
West flank of Koyatabu. The natives of Gabu, receiving them 
at first with a show of interest, and pretending to enter into 
commercial relations, afterwards fell on them treacherously and 
slew the chief Toraya and all his companions. This story has 
become famous, and indeed one of the outstanding historical 
events of the Trobriands, because Tomakam, the slain chief's 
younger brother, went to the Koya of Gabu, and killed the head 
man of one of the villages, avenging thus his brother's death. 
He then composed a song and a dance which is performed to 
this day in Kiriwina, and has indeed one of the finest melodies 
in the islands. 

This is the verbatim account of the story as it was told to 
me by To'uluwa himself, the chief of Omarakana, who at 
present ' owns ' this Gumagabu dance, his ancestors having 
acquired it from the descendants of Tomakam by a laga 


payment.* It is a commentary to the song, and begins only with 
the avenging expedition of Tomakam, which is also the theme 
of the song. 


" Tomakam got a new waga. He blew the conch shell 
and went to the Koya. He spoke to his mother " (that 
is, before leaving), " ' My mother, you remain, I shall 
sail. One conch shell you hear, it will be a conch shell of a 
necklace/ " (That is, it will be a sign that he has been 
successful in getting a good Kula necklace). " ' The 
second conch shell will be the conch shell of the dead man ; 
the sign that I have already carried out my revenge. I 
shall sail, I shall anchor, I shall sleep. The second day I 
shall sail, I shall anchor, I shall sleep. The third day I 
shall anchor in a village, having already arrived in the 
Mountain. The fourth day I shall give pari, the Kinana 
(the Southern foreigner) will come, I shall hit him. The 
fifth day I shall return. I shall sail fast, till night grows 
on the sea. The next day I shall anchor at Burakwa. 
You hear the conch shell, you sleep in the house, arise. 
One blow you hear of the shell the blow of the bagi 
(necklace). Two blows you hear, the blow of the dead 
man ! Then the men of Burakwa will say : ' Two conch 
shells, two necklaces/ then, you come out of the house, 
you speak : ' Men of Burakwa, from one side of the village 
and from the other ; indeed you mocked my son, 
Tomakam. Your speech was go, carry out thy 
vendetta in Gabu. The first conch shell is that of the 
necklace, the second conch shell is that of the dead man. 
I have spoken ! ' " (Here ends the speech of Tomakam to 
his mother.) 

" He anchored in the village in the Koya. He told 
his younger brother : ' Go, tell the Kinana men these 
words : Your friend has a sore leg, well, if we together go 
to the canoe he will give the part I ' The younger brother 
went and spoke those words to the head-man of the 
Kinana : ' Some green coco-nuts, some betel-nut, some 
pig, bring this to us and we shall give you pari. Your 
arm-shells, your big stone blade, your boar's tusk, your 
whale-bone spatula await you in the canoe. The message 
for you is that your friend has a sore leg and cannot walk/ 
Says the Kinana man : ' Well, let us go ! ' " 

" He caught a pig, he collected betel-nut, sugar cane, 
bananas, necklaces, betel-pod, he said : ' Well, let us go 

* See Chapter VI, Division VI. 


together to the canoe/ Pu'u he gives the necklace ; pu'u, 
the pig; then he gave the coco-nut, the betel-nut, the sugar 
cane, the bananas. Tomakam lay on one side ; his leg 
he wrapped up in a white, soft pandanus mat. Before he 
had spoken to his younger brother " : (i.e., he gave him this 
instruction also, when he sent him to meet the people of 
Gabu) : " ' You all come with the Kinana man. Do not 
remain in the village/ Then " (after the first gifts were 
exchanged) " the Kinana man stood up in the canoe. His 
betel-pod fell down. Spoke Tomakam, addressing the 
Kinana man : ' My friend, pick up the betel-pod. It 
fell and went down into the canoe/ The Kinana man 
bent down, he took the betel-pod. Tomakam saw that the 
Kinana bent down, he took an axe, and sitting he made 
a stroke at him. He cut off his neck. Then Tomakam 
took the head, threw the body into the sea. The head he 
stuck on a stick of his canoe. They sailed, they arrived in 
their village. He caught a pig, prepared a taro pudding, 
cut sugar cane, they had a big feast, he invented this 

Such was the story told me by the chief of Omarakana about 
the song and dance of Gumagabu, which at that time they were 
singing and performing in his village. I have adduced it in 
full, in an almost literal translation from the native text, in order 
to show it side by side with the song. The narrative thus 
reproduced shows characteristic gaps, and it does not cover 
even the incidents of the song. 

The following is a free translation of the song, which, in its 
original native text, is very condensed and impressionistic. 
A word or two indicates rather than describes whole scenes and 
incidents, and the traditional commentary, handed on in a 
native community side by side with the song, is necessary for a 
full understanding. 


The stranger of Gumagabu sits on the top of the 


' Go on top of the mountain, the towering mountain. . . / 
They cry for Toraya 

The stranger of Gumagabu sits on the slope of the 

-The fringe of small clouds lifts above Boyowa ; 

The mother cries for Toraya- 


' I shall take my revenge.' 
The mother cries for Toraya. 


Our mother, Dibwaruna, dreams on the mat. 
She dreams about the killing. 
' Revenge the wailing ; 
Anchor ; hit the Gabu strangers ! ' 

The stranger comes out ; 

The chief gives him the pari ; 

1 I shall give you the doga ; 

Bring me things from the mountain to the canoe ! ' 


We exchange our vaygu'a ; 

The rumour of my arrival spreads through the Koya 
We talk and talk. 
He bends and is killed. 
His companions run away ; 
His body is thrown into the sea ; 
The companions of the Kinana run away, 
We sail home. 


Next day, the sea foams up, 
The chief's canoe stops on the reef ; 
The storm approaches ; 
The chief is afraid of drowning. 
The conch shell is blown : 
It sounds in the mountain. 
They all weep on the reef. 


They paddle in the chief's canoe ; 
They circle round the point of Bewara. 
' I have hung my basket. 
I have met him.' 
So cries the chief, 
So cries repeatedly the chief. 


Women in festive decoration 
Walk on the beach. 
Nawaruva puts on her turtle rings ; 
She puts on her lulugau skirt. 
In the village of my fathers, in Burakwa 
There is plenty of food ; 
Plenty is brought in for distribution. 


The character of this song is extremely elliptic, one might 
even say futuristic, since several scenes are crowded simul- 
taneously into the picture. In the first strophe we see the 
Kinana, by which word all the tribesmen from the d'Entrecas- 
teaux Archipelago are designated in Boyowa, on the top of his 
Mountain in Gabu. Immediately afterwards, we are informed 
of the intentions of Tomakam to ascend the mountain, while 
the women cry for Toraya, for the slain chief probably his 
kinswomen and widows. The next picture again spans over 
the wide seas, and on the one shore we see the Gabuan sitting on 
the slopes of his hill and far away on the other, under the 
fringe of small clouds lifting above Boyowa, the mother cries 
for her son, the murdered chief. Tomakam takes a resolve, 
' I shall take my revenge/ hearing her cry. 

In the second strophe, the mother dreams about the 
expedition ; the words about revenge to be taken on the Gabu 
men and the directions to anchor and hit him are probably 
taken from her dream. Then suddenly we are transported 
right across to the mountain, the expedition having arrived 
there already. The strangers, the Kinana are coming down to 
the canoe, and we assist at the words spoken between them 
and the people of Buakwa. 

Then in the third strophe, we arrive at the culminating 
scene of the drama ; even here, however, the hero, who is also 
his own bard, could not help introducing a few boastful words 
about his renown resounding in the Koya. In a few words the 
tragedy is described : the Kinana bends down, is killed, and 
his body is thrown into the water. About his head -we hear 
nothing in this verse. 

In the next one, a storm overtakes the returning party. 
Signals of distress are re-echoed by the mountain, and like 
Homeric heroes, our party are not ashamed to weep in fear and 
anguish. Somehow they escape, however, and in the next 
verse, they are already near their village and Tomakam, their 
leader, bursts into a paean of triumph. It is not quite clear 
what the allusion to the basket means, whether he keeps there 
his Kula trophies or the slain enemy's head ; this latter, in 
contradiction to what we heard in the prose story of its being 
impaled. The song ends with a description of a feast. The 
woman mentioned there is Tomakam's daughter, who puts on 
festive attire in order to welcome her father. 


Comparing now the song with the story, we see that they 
do not quite tally. In the story, there is the dramatic interest 
of the mother's intervention. We gather from it that 
Tomakam, goaded by the aspersions of his fellow-villagers, 
wishes to make his return as effective as possible. He arranges 
the signals of the two conch shell blasts with his mother, and 
asks her to harangue the people at the moment of his reinirn. 
All this finds no expression in the song. The ruse of the chief's 
sore leg is also omitted from there, which, however, does not 
mean that the hero was ashamed of it. On the other hand, 
the storm described in the song is omitted from the story, and 
there is a discrepancy about the head of the Gabu man, and 
we do not know whether it really is conveyed in a basket as the 
song has it or impaled, as the story relates ! 

I have adduced in detail the story and the song, because 
they are a good illustration of the native's attitude towards 
the dangers, and towards the heroic romance of the Koya. 
They are also interesting as documents, showing which salient 
points would strike the natives' imagination in such a dramatic 
occurrence. Both in the story and in the song, we find empha- 
sised the motives of social duty, of satisfied self-regard and 
ambition ; again, the dangers on the reef, the subterfuge in 
killing, finally the festivities on return home. Much that 
would interest us in the whole story is omitted, as anyone can 
see for himself. 

Other stories, though not made illustrious through being set 
into a song, are told about the Koya. I met myself an old man 
in the island of Vakuta, who, as a boy, had been captured 
with a whole partv by a village community of Dobu-speaking 
people on Normanby Island. The men and another small boy 
of the party were killed and eaten, but some women took pity 
on him, and he was spared, to be brought up amongst them. 
There is another man, either alive or , recently dead in 
Kavataria, who had a similar experience in Fergusson Island. 
Another man called Kaypoyla, from the small island of Kuyawa 
in the Western Trobriands, was stranded with his crew some- 
where in the West of Fergusson Island, but not in the district 
where they used to trade. His companions were killed and eaten. 
He was taken alive and kept to fatten for a proximate feast. 
His host, or rather the host of the feast in which he was going 
to furnish the piece de resistence, was away inland, to invite the 


guests, while the host's wife went for a moment behind the 
house, sweeping the ground. Kaypoyla jumped up and ran to 
the shore. Being chased by some other men from the settle- 
ment, he concealed himself in the branches of a big tree standing 
on the beach, and was not found by his pursuers. At night he 
came down, took a canoe or a raft, and paddled along the coast. 
He used to sleep on shore during the night, and paddle on in 
day time. One night he slept among some sago-palms, and, 
awakening in the morning, found himself, to his terror, sur- 
rounded by Kinana men. What was his joyful surprise after 
all, when he recognised among them his friend and Kula 
partner, with whom he always used to trade ! After some time, 
he was sent back home in his partner's canoe. 

Many such stories have a wide currency, and they supply 
one of the heroic elements in tribal life, an element which now, 
with the establishment of white man's influence, has vanished. 
Yet even now the gloomy shores which our party are leaving to 
the right, the tall jungle, the deep valleys, the hill-tops darkened 
with trailing clouds, all this is a dim mysterious background, 
adding to the awe and solemnity of the Kula, though not 
entering into it. The sphere of activities of our traders lies at 
the foot of the high mountains, there, where a chain of rocks 
and islands lies scattered along the coast. Some of them are 
passed immediately after leaving Gumasila. Then, after a good 
distance, a small rock, called Gurewaya, is met, remarkable for 
the taboos associated with it. Close behind it, two islands, 
Tewara and Uwama, are separated by a narrow passage, the 
mythical straits of Kadimwatu. There* is a village on the 
first-mentioned, and the natives of this make gardens on both 
islands. The village is not very big ; it may have some sixty to 
eighty inhabitants, as it can man three canoes for the Kula. It 
has no commercial or industrial importance, but is notable 
because of its mythological associations. This island is the 
home of the mythological hero, Kasabwaybwayreta, whose 
story is one of the most important legends of the Kula. Here 
indeed, in Tewara, we are right within the mythological heart 
of the Kula. In fact, we entered its legendary area with the 
moment the Sinaketan fleet sailed out of the Lagoon into the 
deep waters of Pilolu. 



Once more we must pause, this time in an attempt to grasp 
the natives' mental attitude towards the mythological aspect 
of the Kula. Right through this account it has been our 
constant endeavour to realise the vision of the world, as it is 
reflected in the minds of the natives. The frequent references 
to the scenery have not been given only to enliven the narrative, 
or even to enable the reader to visualise the setting of the native 
customs, I have attempted to show how the scene of his 
actions appears actually to the native, to describe his impres- 
sions and feelings with regard to it, as I was able to read them 
in his folk-lore, in his conversations at home, and in his 
behaviour when passing through this scenery itself. 

Here we must try to reconstruct the influence of myth upon 
this vast landscape, as it colours it, gives it meaning, and 
transforms it into something live and familiar. What was a 
mere rock, now becomes a personality ; what was a speck on 
the horizon becomes a beacon, hallowed by romantic associa- 
tions with heroes ; a meaningless configuration of landscape 
acquires a significance, obscure no doubt, but full of intense 
emotion. Sailing with natives, especially with novices to the 
Kula, I often observed how deep was their interest in sections 
of landscape impregnated with legendary meaning, how the 
elder ones would point and explain, the younger would gaze and 
wonder, while the talk was full of mythological names. It is 
the addition of the human interest to the natural features, 
possessing in themselves less power of appealing to a native 
man than to us, which makes the difference for him in looking at 
the scenery. A stone hurled by one of the heroes into the sea 
after an escaping canoe ; a sea passage broken between two 
islands by a magical canoe ; here two people turned into rock ; 
there a petrified waga all this makes the landscape represent a 
continuous story or else the culminating dramatic incident 
of a familiar legend. This power of transforming the land- 
scape, the visible environment, is one only of the many influ- 
ences which myth exercises upon the general outlook of the 
natives. Although here we are studying myth only in its con- 
nection with the Kula, even within these narrow limits some of 
its broader connections will be apparent, notably its influence 
upon sociology, magic and ceremonial. 

The question which presents itself first, in trying to grasp 


the native outlook on the subject is : what is myth to the 
natives ? How do they conceive and define it ? Have they 
any line of demarcation between the mythical and the actual 
reality, and if so, how do they draw this line ? 

Their folk-lore, that is, the verbal tradition, the store of tales, 
legends, and texts handed on by previous generations, is com- 
posed of the following classes ; first of all, there is what 
the natives call libogwo, ' old talk/ but which we would call 
tradition ; secondly, kukwanebu, fairy tales, recited for amuse- 
ment, at definite seasons, and relating avowedly untrue events ; 
thirdly, wosi, the various songs, and vinavina, ditties, chanted at 
play or under other special circumstances ; and last, not least, 
megwa or yopa, the magical spells. All these classes are strictly 
distinguished from one another by name, function, social 
setting, and by certain formal characteristics. This brief 
outline of the Boyowan folk-lore in general must suffice here, 
as we cannot enter into more details, and the only class which 
interests us in the present connection is the first one, that 
called libogwo. 

This, the ' old talk,' the body of ancient tradition, believed 
to be true, consists on the one hand of historical tales, such 
as the deeds of past chiefs, exploits in the Koya, stories of 
shipwreck, etc. On the other hand, the 'ibogwo class also 
contains what the natives call lili'u myths, narratives, 
deeply believed by them, held by them in reverence, and 
exercising an active influence on their conduct and tribal life. 
Now the natives distinguish definitely between myth and 
historic account, but this distinction is difficult to formulate, 
and cannot be stated but in a somewhat deliberate manner. 

First of all, it must be borne in mind, that a native would 
not trouble spontaneously to analyse such distinctions and to 
put them into words. If an Ethnographer succeeded in making 
the problem clear to an intelligent informant (and I have tried 
and succeeded in doing this) the native would simply state : 

" We all know that the stories about Tudava, about 
Kudayuri, about Tokosikuna, are lili'u ; our fathers, our 
kadada (our maternal uncles) told us so ; and we always 
hear these tales ; we know them well ; we know that there 
are no other tales besides them, which are lili'u. Thus, 
whenever we hear a story, we know whether it is a 
lili'u or not." 


Indeed, whenever a story is told, any native, even a boy, 
would be able to say whether this is one of his tribal lili'u or 
not. For the other tales, that is the historical ones, they have 
no special word, but they would describe the events as happen- 
ing among ' humans like ourselves.' Thus tradition, from 
which the store of tales is received, hands them on labelled as 
lili'u, and the definition of a lili'u, is that it is a story "trans- 
mitted with such a label. And even this definition is con- 
tained by the facts themselves, and not explicitly stated by the 
natives in their current stock of expressions. 

For us, however, even this is not sufficient, and we have to 
search further, in order to see whether we cannot find other 
indices, other characteristic features which differentiate the 
world of mythical events from that of real ones. A reflection 
which would naturally present itself would be this : " Surely 
the natives place their myths in ancient, pre-historic times, 
while they put historical events into recent ages ? " There is 
some truth in this, in so far as most of the historical events 
related by the natives are quite recent, have occurred within 
the community where they are told and can be directly con- 
nected with people and conditions existing at present, by 
memory of living man, by genealogies or other records. On 
the other hand, when historical events are told from other 
districts, and cannot be directly linked with the present, it 
would be erroneous to imagine that the natives place them into 
a definite compartment of time different from that of the myth. 
For it must be realised that these natives do not conceive of a 
past as of a lengthy duration, unrolling itself in successive 
stages of time. They have no idea of a long vista of histori- 
cal occurrences, narrowing down and dimming as they recede 
towards a distant background of legend and myth, which stands 
out as something entirely different from the nearer planes. 
This view, so characteristic of the naive, historical thinking 
among ourselves, is entirely foreign to the natives. Whenever 
they speak of some event of the past, they distinguish whether 
it happened within their own memory or that of their fathers' 
or not. But, once beyond this line of demarcation, all the past 
events are placed by them on one plane, and there are no 
gradations of ' long ago ' and ' very long ago. 1 Any idea of 
epochs in time is absent from their mind ; the past is one vast 
storehouse of events, and the line of demarcation between myth 


and history does not coincide with any division into definite 
and distinct periods of time. Indeed, I have found very 
often that when they told me some story of the past, for 
me obviously mythological, they would deem it necessary 
to emphasise that this did not happen in their fathers' time 
or in their grand-fathers' time, but long ago, and that it is 
a lili'u. 

Again, they have no idea of what could be called the 
evolution of the world or the evolution of society ; that is, 
they do not look back towards a series of successive changes, 
which happened in nature or in humanity, as we do. We, 
in our religious and scientific outlook alike, know that earth 
ages and that humanity ages, and we think of both in these 
terms ; for them, both are eternally the same, eternally youth- 
ful. Thus, in judging the remoteness of traditional events, 
they cannot use the co-ordinates of a social setting constantly 
in change and divided into epochs. To give a concrete example, 
in the myths of Torosipupu and Tolikalaki, we saw them having 
the same interest and concerns, engaged in the same type of 
fishing, using the same means of locomotion as the present 
natives do. The mythical personages of the natives' 
legends, as we shall presently see, live in the same houses, eat 
the same food, handle the same weapons and implements as 
those in use at present. Whereas in any of our historical 
stories, legends or myths, we have a whole set of changed 
cultural conditions, which allow us to co-ordinate any event 
with a certain epoch, and which make us feel that a distant 
historical event, and still more, a mythological one, is happening 
in a setting of cultural conditions entirely different from those 
in which we are living now. In the very telling of the stories 
of, let us say, Joan of Arc, Solomon, Achilles, King Arthur, we 
have to mention all sorts of things and conditions long since 
disappeared from among us, which make even a superficial 
and an uneducated listener realise that it is a story of a remote 
and different pasL 

I have said just now that the mythical personages in the 
Trobriand tradition are living the same type of life, under the 
same social and cultural conditions as the present natives. 
This needs one qualification, and in this we shall find a very 
remarkable criterion for a distinction between what is legendary 
and what is historical : in the mythical world, although 


surrounding conditions were similar, all sorts of events happened 
which do not happen nowadays, and people were endowed with 
powers such as present men and their historical ancestors do not 
possess. In mythical times, human beings come out of the 
ground, they change into animals, and these become people 
again ; men and women rejuvenate and slough their skins ; 
flying canoes speed through the air, and things are transformed 
into stone. 

Now this line of demarcation between the world of myth and 
that of actual reality the simple difference that in the former 
things happen which never occur nowadays is undoubtedly 
felt and realised by the natives, though they themselves could 
not put it into words. They know quite well that to-day no 
one emerges from underground ; that people do not change 
into animals, and vice versa ; nor do they give birth to them ; 
that present-day canoes do not fly. I had the opportunity of 
grasping their mental attitude towards such things by the 
following occurrence. The Fijian missionary teacher in 
Omarakana was telling them about white man's flying 
machines. They inquired from me, whether this was true, 
and when I corroborated the Fijian's report and showed them 
pictures of aeroplanes in an illustrated paper, they asked me 
whether this happened nowadays or whether it were a lili'u. This 
circumstance made it clear to me then, that the natives would 
have a tendency, when meeting with an extraordinary and to 
them supernatural event, either to discard it as untrue, or 
relegate it into the regions of the lili'u. This does not mean, 
however, that the untrue and the mythical are the same or even 
similar to them. Certain stories told to them, they insist on 
treating as sasopa (lies), and maintain that they are not lili'u. 
For instance, those opposed to missionary teaching will not 
accept the view that Biblical stories told to them are a lili'u, 
but they reject them as sasopa. Many a time did I hear such a 
conservative native arguing thus : 

" Our stories about Tudava are true ; this is a lili'u. 
If you go to Laba'i you can see the cave in which Tudava 
was born, you can see the beach where he played as a boy. 
You can see his footmark in a stone at a place in the 
Raybwag. But where are the traces of Yesu Keriso ? 
Who ever saw any signs of the tales told by the misinari ? 
Indeed they are not lili'u." 


To sum up, the distinction between the lili'u and actual 
or historical reality is drawn firmly, and there is a definite 
cleavage between the two. Prima facie, this distinction is 
based on the fact that all myth is labelled as such and known 
to be such to all natives. A further distinctive mark of the 
world of lili'u lies in the super-normal, supernatural character 
of certain events which happen in it. The supernatural is 
believed to be true, and this truth is sanctioned by tradition, 
and by the various signs and traces left behind by mythical 
events, more especially by the magical powers handed on by 
the ancestors who lived in times of lili'u. This magical inheri- 
tance is no doubt the most palpable link between the present 
and the mythical past. But this past must not be imagined to 
form a pre-historic, very distant background, something which 
preceded a long evolution of mankind. It is rather the past, but 
extremely near reality, very much alive and true to the natives. 

As I have just said, there is one point on which the cleavage 
between myth and present reality, however deep, is bridged 
over in native ideas. The extraordinary powers which men 
possess in myths are mostly due to their knowledge of magic. 
This knowledge is, in many cases, lost, and therefore the powers 
of doing these marvellous things are either completely gone, 
or else considerably reduced. If the magic could be recovered, 
men would fly again in their canoes, they could rejuvenate, 
defy ogres, and perform the many heroic deeds which they did 
in ancient times. Thus, magic, and the powers conferred by 
it, are really the link between mythical tradition and the present 
day. Myth has crystallised into magical formulae, and magic in 
its turn bears testimony to the authenticity of myth. Often 
the main function of myth is to serve as a foundation for a 
system of magic, and, wherever magic forms the backbone of an 
institution, a myth is also to be found at the base of it. In 
this perhaps, lies the greatest sociological importance of myth, 
that is, in its action upon institutions through the associated 
magic. The sociological point of view and the idea of the 
natives coincide here in a remarkable manner. In this book 
we see this exemplified in one concrete case, in that of the 
relation between the mythology, the magic, and the social 
institution of the Kula. 

Thus we can define myth as a narrative of events which are 
to the native supernatural, in this sense, that he knows well 


that to-day they do not happen. At the same time he believes 
deeply that they did happen then. The socially sanctioned 
narratives of these events ; the traces which they left on the 
surface of the earth ; the magic in which they left behind part 
of their supernatural powers, the social institutions which are 
associated with the practice of this magic all this brings about 
the fact that a myth is for the native a living actuality, though 
it has happened long ago and in an order of things when people 
were endowed with supernatural powers. 

I have said before that the natives do not possess any 
historical perspective, that they do not range events except 
of course, those of the most recent decades into any successive 
stages. They also do not classify their myths into any divisions 
with regard to their antiquity. But in looking at their myths, 
it becomes at once obvious that they represent events, some of 
which must have happened prior to others. For there is a 
group of stories describing the origin of humanity, the emerging 
of the various social units from underground. Another group 
of mythical tales gives accounts of how certain important 
institutions were introduced and how certain customs crystal- 
lised, Again, there are myths referring to small changes in 
culture, or to the introduction of new details and minor custom?. 
Broadly speaking, the mythical folk-lore of the Trobrianders 
can be divided into three groups referring to three different 
strata of events. In order to give a general idea of Trobriand 
mythology, it will be good to give a short characterisation of 
each of these groups. 

i. The Oldest Myths, referring to the origin of human 
beings ; to the sociology of the sub-clans and villages ; to the 
establishment of permanent relations between this world and 
the next. These myths describe events which took place just 
at the moment when the earth began to be peopled from 
underneath. Humanity existed, somewhere underground, since 
people emerged from there on the surface of Boyowa, in full 
decoration, equipped with magic, belonging to social divisions, 
and obeying definite laws and customs. But beyond this we 
know nothing about what they did underground. There is, 
however, a series of myths, of which one is attached to every one 
of the more important sub-clans, about various ancestors 
coming out of the ground, and almost at once, doing some 
important deed, which gives a definite character to the sub-clan. 


Certain mythological versions about the nether world belong 
also to this series. 

2. Kultur myths. Here belong stories about ogres and 
their conquerors ; about human beings who established definite 
customs and cultural features ; about the origin of certain 
institutions. These myths are different from the foregoing 
ones, in so far as they refer to a time when humanity was already 
established on the surface of the earth, and when all the social 
divisions had already assumed a definite character. The main 
cycle of myths which belong here, are those of a culture hero, 
Tudava, who slays an ogre and thus allows people to live in 
Boyowa again, whence they all had fled in fear of being eaten 
A story about the origins of cannibalism belongs here also, and 
about the origin of garden making. 

3. Myths in which figure only ordinary human beings, though 
endowed with extraordinary magical powers. These myths 
are distinguished from the foregoing ones, by the fact that no 
ogres or non-human persons figure in them, and that they 
refer to the origin, not of whole aspects of culture, such as 
cannibalism or garden-making, but to definite institutions or 
definite forms of magic. Here comes the myth about the 
origins of sorcery, the myth about the origins of love magic, the 
myth of the flying canoe, and finally the several Kula myths. 
The line of division between these three categories is, of course, 
not a rigid one, and many a myth could be placed in two or 
even three of these classes, according to its several features or 
episodes. But each myth contains as a rule one main subject, 
and if we take only this, there is hardly ever the slightest doubt 
as to where it should be placed. 

A point which might appear contradictory in superficial 
reading is that before, we stressed the fact that the natives had 
no idea of change, yet here we spoke of myths about ' origins ' 
of institutions. It is important to realise that, though natives 
do speak about times when humanity was not upon the earth, 
of times when there were no gardens, etc., yet all these things 
arrive ready-made ; they do not change or evolve. The first 
people, who came from underground, came up adorned with the 
same trinkets, carrying their lime-pot aoid chewing their betel- 
nut. The event, the emergence from the earth was mythical, 
that is, such as does not happen now ; but the human beings 
and the country which received them were such as exist to-day. 



The myths of the Kula are scattered along a section of the 
present Kula circuit. Beginning with a place in Eastern 
Woodlark Island, the village of Wamwara, the mythological 
centres are spread round almost in a semi-circle, right down 
to the island of Tewara, where we have left for the present 
our party from Sinaketa. 

In Wamwara there lived an individual called Gere'u, who, 
according to one myth, was the originator of the Kula. In the 
island of Digumenu, West of Woodlark Island, Tokosikuna, 
another hero of the Kula, had his early home, though he 
finished his career in Gumasila, in the Amphletts. Kitava, 
the westernmost of the Marshall Bennetts, is the centre of canoe 
magic associated with the Kula. It is also the home of 
Monikiniki, whose name figures in many formulae of the Kula 
magic, though there is no explicit myth about him, except that 
he was the first man to practice an important system of 
mwasila (Kula magic), probably the most widespread system 
of the present day. Further West, in Wawela, we are at the 
other end of the Kasabwaybwayreta myth, which starts in 
Tewara, and goes over to Wawela in its narrative of events, to 
return to Tewara again. This mythological narrative touches 
the island of Boyowa at its southernmost point, the passage 
Giribwa, which divides it from Vakuta. Almost all myths 
have one of their incidents laid in a small island between 
Vakuta and the Amphletts, called Gabuwana. One of the 
myths leads us to the Amphletts, that of Tokosikuna ; another 
has its beginning and end in Tewara. Such is the geography 
of the Kula myths on the big sector between Murua and Dobu. 

Although I do not know the other half through investi- 
gations made on the spot, I have spoken with natives from 
those districts, and I think that there are no myths localised 
anywhere on the sector Murua (Woodlark Island), Tubetube, 
and Dobu. What I am quite certain of, however, is that the 
whole of the Trobriands, except the two points mentioned 
before, lie outside the mythological area of the Kula. No 
Kula stories, associated with any village in the Northern half 
of Boyowa exist, nor does any of the mythical heroes of the 
other stories ever come to the Northern or Western provinces of 
the Trobriands. Such extremely important centres as Sinaketa 


and Oinarakana are never mentioned. This would point, on 
the surface of it, to the fact that in olden days, the island of 
Boyowa, except its Southern end and the Eastern settlement of 
Wawela, either did not enter at all or did not play an important 
part in the Kula. 

I shall give a somewhat abbreviated account of the various 
stories, and then adduce in extenso the one last mentioned, 
perhaps the most noteworthy of all the Kula myths, that of 
Kasabwaybwayreta, as well as the very important canoe myth, 
that of the flying waga of Kudayuri. 

The Muruan myth, which I obtained only in a very bald 
outline, is localised in the village of Wamwara, at the Eastern 
end of the island. A man called Gere'u, of the Lukuba clan, 
knew very well the mwasila magic, and wherever he went, all 
the valuables were given to him, so that all the others returned 
empty-handed. He went to Gawa and Iwa, and as soon as he 
appeared, pu-pu went the conch shells, and everybody gave 
him the bagi necklaces. He returned to his village, full of 
glory and of Kula spoils. Then he went to Du'a'u, and 
obtained again an enormous amount of arm-shells. He 
settled the direction in which the Kula valuables have to move. 
Bagi necklaces have ' to go/ and the am-shells ' to come.' 
As this was spoken on Boyowa, ' go ' meant to travel from 
Boyowa to Woodlark, ' come ' to travel from Gere'u's village 
to Sinaketa. The culture hero Gere'u was finally killed, 
through envy of his success in the Kula. 

I obtained two versions about the mythological hero, 
Tokosikuna of Digumenu. In the first of them, he is repre- 
sented as a complete cripple, without hands and feet, who has 
to be carried by his two daughters into the canoe. They 
sail on a Kula expedition through Iwa, Gawa, through the 
Straits of Giribwa to Gumasila. Then they put him on a 
platform, where he takes a meal and goes to sleep. They leave 
him there and go into a garden which they see on a hill above, 
in order to gather some food. On coming back, they find him 
dead. On hearing their wailing, an ogre comes out, marries 
one of them and adopts the other. As he was very ugly, 
however, the girls killed him in an obscene manner, and then 
settled in the island. This obviously mutilated and superficial 
version does not give us many clues to the native ideas about 
the Kula. 


The other version is much more interesting. Tokosikuna, 
according to it, is also slightly crippled, lame, very ugly, and 
with a pitted skin ; so ugly indeed that he could not marry. 
Far North, in the mythical land of Kokopawa, they play a 
flute so beautifully that the chief of Digumenu, the village of 
Tokosikuna, hears it. He wishes to obtain the flute. Many 
men set out, but all fail, and they have to return half* way, 
because it is so far. Tokosikuna goes, and, through a mixture 
of cunning and daring, he succeeds in getting possession of the 
flute, and in returning safely to Digumenu. There, through 
magic which one is led to infer he has acquired on his journey, 
he changes his appearance, becomes young, smooth-skinned and 
beautiful. The guya'u (chief) who is away in his garden, hears 
the flute played in his village, and returning there, he sees 
Tokosikuna sitting on a high platform, playing the flute and 
looking beautiful. " Well," he says, " all my daughters, all 
my granddaughters, my nieces and my sisters, you all marry 
Tokosikuna ! Your husbands, you leave behind ! You marry 
Tokosikuna, for he has brought the flute from the distant 
land ! " So Tokosikuna married all the women. 

The other men did not take it very well, of course. They 
decided to get rid of Tokosikuna by stratagem. They said 
" The chief would like to eat giant clam-shell, let us go and 
fish it." " And how shall I catch it ? " asks Tokosikuna. 
" You put your head, where the clam-shell gapes open." (This 
of course would mean death, as the clam-shell would close, and, 
if a really big one, would easily cut off his head). Tokosikuna, 
however, dived and with his two hands, broke a clam-shell 
open, a deed of super-human strength. The others were angry, 
and planned another form of revenge. They arranged a shark- 
fishing, advising Tokosikuna to catch the fish with his hands. 
But he simply strangled the big shark, and put it into the 
canoe. Then, he tears asunder a boar's mouth, bringing them 
thus to despair. Finally they decide to get rid of him at sea. 
They try to kill him first by letting the heavy tree, felled for the 
waga, fall on him. But he supports it with his outstretched 
arms, and does no harm to himself. At the time of lashing, 
his companions wrap some wayaugo (lashing creeper) into a soft 
pandanus leaf ; then they persuade him to use pandanus only 
for the lashing of his canoe, which he does indeed, deceived by 
seeing them use what apparently is the same Then they 


sail, the other men in good, sea-worthy canoes, he in an entirely 
unseaworthy one, lashed only with the soft, brittle pandanus leaf. 

And here begins the real Kula part of the myth The 
expedition arrives at Gawa, where Tokosikuna remains with 
his canoe on the beach, while the other men go to the village to 
kula. They collect all the smaller armshells of the soulava 
type, but the big ones, the bagi, remain in the village, for the 
local men are unwilling to give them. Then Tokosikuna starts 
for the village after all the others have returned. After a short 
while, he arrives from the village, carrying all the bagido'u 
bagidudu, and bagiriku that is, all the most valuable types of 
spondylus necklaces. The same happens in Iwa and Kitava. 
His companions from the other canoes go first and succeed 
only in collecting the inferior kinds of valuables. He after- 
wards enters the village, and easily obtains the high grades of 
necklace, which had been refused to the others. These become 
very angry ; in Kitava, they inspect the lashings of his canoe, 
and see that they are rotten. " Oh well, to-morrow, Vakuta ! 
The day after, Gumasila, he will drown in Pilolu." In 
Vakuta the same happens as before, and the wrath of his un- 
^uccessful companions increases. 

They sail and passing the sandbank of Gabula (this is the 
Trobriand name for Gabuwana, as the Amphlettans pronounce 
it) Tokosikuna eases his helm ; then, as he tries to bring the 
canoe up to the wind again, his lashings snap, and the canoe 
sinks. He swims in the waves, carrying the basket-full of 
valuables in one arm. He calls out to the other canoes : 
" Come and take your bagi! I shall get into your waga f " 
" You married all our women," they answer, " now, sharks will 
cat you ! We shall go to make Kula in Dobu ! " Tokosikuna, 
however, swims safely to the point called Kamsareta, in the 
island of Domdom. From there he beholds the rock of 
Selawaya standing out of the jungle on the eastern slope of 
Gumasila. " This is a big rock, I shall go and live there/' and 
turning towards the Digumenu canoes, he utters a curse . 

" You will get nothing in Dobu but poor necklaces, soulava 
of the type of tutumuyuwa and tutuyanabwa. The big bagido'u 
will stop with me." He remains in the Amphletts and does not 
return to Digumenu. And here ends the myth. 

I have given an extensive summary of this myth, including 
its first part, which has nothing to do with the Kula, because 


it gives a full character sketch of the hero as a daring sailor and 
adventurer. It shows, how Tokosikuna, after his Northern 
trip, acquired magic which allowed him to change his ugly and 
weak frame into a powerful body with a beautiful appearance. 
The first part also contains the reference to his great success 
with women, an association between Kula magic and love magic, 
which as we shall see, is not without importance. In thi first 
part, that is, up to the moment when they start on the Kula, 
Tokosikuna appears as a hero, endowed with extraordinary 
powers, due to his knowledge of magic. 

In this myth, as we see, no events are related through 
which the natural appearance of the landscape is changed. 
Therefore this myth is typical of what I have called the most 
recent stratum of mythology. This is further confirmed by 
the circumstance that no allusion is made in it to any origins, 
not even to the origins of the mwasila magic. For, as the myth 
is at present told and commented upon, all the men who go on 
the Kula expedition with our hero, know a system of Kula 
magic, the mwasila of Monikiniki. Tokosikuna's superiority 
rests with his special beauty magic ; with his capacity to 
display enormous strength, and to face with impunity great 
dangers ; with his ability to escape from drowning, finally, with 
his knowledge of the evil magic, bulubwalata, with which he 
prevents his companions from doing successful Kula. This last 
point was contained in a commentary upon this myth, given to 
me by the man who narrated it. When I speak about the Kula 
magic more explicitly further on, the reader will see that the 
four points of superiority just mentioned correspond to the 
categories into which we have to group the Kula magic, when it 
is classified according to its leading ideas, according to the goal 
towards which it aims. 

One magic Tokosikuna does not know. We see from the 
myth that he is ignorant of the nature of the wayugo, the lashing 
creeper. He is therefore obviously not a canoe-builder, nor 
acquainted with canoe-building magic. This is the point on 
which his companions are able to catch him. 

Geographically, this myth links Digumenu with the 
Amphletts, as also did the previous version of the Tokosikuna 
story. The hero, here as there, settles finally in Gumasila, and 
the element of migration is contained in both versions. Again, 
in the last story, Tokosikuna decides to settle in the Amphletts, 


on seeing the Selawaya rock. If we remember the Gumasilan 
legend about the origin of Kula magic, it also refers to the same 
rock. I did not obtain the name of the individual who is 
believed to have lived on the Selawaya rock, but it obviously is 
the same myth, only very mutilated in the Gumasilan version. 


Moving Westwards from Digumenu, to which the Tokosi- 
kuna myth belongs, the next important centre of Kula magic 
is the island of Kitava. With this place, the magical system of 
Monikiniki is associated by tradition, though no special story 
is told about this individual. A very important myth, on the 
other hand, localised in Kitava, is the one which serves as 
foundation for canoe magic. I have obtained three indepen- 
dent versions of this myth, and they agree substantially. I 
shall adduce at length the story as it was told to me by the best 
informant, and written down in Kiriwinian, and after that, I 
shall show on what points the other versions vary. I shall not 
omit from the full account certain tedious repetitions and 
obviously inessential details, for they are indispensable for 
imparting to the narrative the characteristic flavour of native 

To understand the following account, it is necessary to 
realise that Kitava is a raised coral island. Its inland part is 
elevated to a height of about three hundred feet. Behind the 
flat beach, a steep coral wall rises, and from its summit the land 
gently falls towards the central declivity. It is in this central 
part that the villages are situated, and it would be quite impossi- 
ble to transport a canoe from any village to the beach. Thus, 
in Kitava, unlike what happens with some of the Lagoon 
villages of Boyowa, the canoes have to be always dug out and 
lashed on the beach. 


" Mokatuboda of the Lukuba clan and his younger 
brother Toweyre'i lived in the village of Kudayuri. With 
them lived their three sisters Kayguremwo, Na'ukuwakula 
and Murumweyri'a. They had all come out from under- 
ground in the spot called Labikewo, in Kitava. These 
people were the u'ula (foundation, basis, here : first 
possessors) of the ligogu and wayugo magic. 1 ' 


" All the men of Kitava decided on a great Kula expe- 
dition to the Koya. The men of Kumwageya, Kaybutu, 
Kabululo and Lalela made their canoes. They scooped out 
the inside of the waga, they carved the tabuyo and lagim 
(decorated prow boards), they made the budaka (lateral 
gunwale planks). They brought the component parts to 
the beach, in order to make the yowaga (to put and lash 
them together)/' 

" The Kudayuri people made their canoe in the village. 
Mokatuboda, the head man of the Kudayuri village, ordered 
them to do so. They were angry : ' Very heavy canoe. 
Who will carry it to the beach ? ' He said : ' No, not so ; 
it will be well. I shall just lash my waga in the village/ 
He refused to move the canoe ; it remained in the village. 
The other people pieced their canoe on the beach ; he 
pieced it together in the village. They lashed it with the 
wayugo creeper on the beach ; he lashed his in the village. 
They caulked their canoes on the sea-shore ; he caulked 
his in the village. They painted their canoes on the beach 
with black ; he blackened his in the village. They made 
the youlala (painted red and white) on the beach ; he 
made the youlala in the village. They sewed their sail on 
the beach ; he did it in the village. They rigged up the 
mast and rigging on the beach ; he in the village. After 
that, the men of Kitava made tasasoria (trial run) and kabi- 
gidoya (visit of ceremonial presentation), but the Kudayuri 
canoe did not make either/' 

" By and by, all the men of Kitava ordered their women 
to prepare the food. The women one day put all the 
food, the gugu'a (personal belongings), the pari (presents 
and trade goods) into the canoe. The people of Kudayuri 
had all these things put into their canoe in the village. 
The h&idman of the Kudayuri, Mokatuboda, asked all his 
younger brothers, all the members of his crew, to bring 
some of their pari, and he performed magic over it, and 
made a lilava (magical bundle) of it." 

" The people of other villages went to the beach ; each 
canoe was manned by its usagelu (members of the crew). 
The man of Kudayuri ordered his crew to man his canoe 
in the village. They of the other villages stepped the mast 
on the shore ; he stepped the mast in the village. They 
prepared the rigging on the shore ; he prepared the 
rigging in the village. They hoisted the sail on the sea ; 
he spoke ' May our sail be hoisted/ and his companions 
hoisted th$ sail. He spoke : ' Sit in your places, every 
man ! ' He went into the house, he took his ligogu (adze), 


he took some coco-nut oil, he took a staff. He spoke magic 
over the adze, over the coco-nut oil. He came out of the 
house, he approached the canoe. A small dog of his called 
Tokulubweydoga jumped into the canoe.* He spoke 
to his crew : ' Pull up the sail higher/ They pulled at 
the halyard. He rubbed the staff with the coco-nut oil. 
He knocked the canoe's skids with the staff. Then he 
struck with his ligogu the u'ula of his canoe and the 
dobwana (that is, both ends of the canoe). He jumped into 
the canoe, sat down, and the canoe flew ! " 

" A rock stood before it. It pierced the rock in two, and 
flew through it. He bent down, he looked ; his com- 
panions (that is, the other canoes of Kitava) sailed on the 
sea. He spoke to his younger brothers, (that is to his 
relatives in the canoe) : ' Bail out the water, pour it out ! ' 
Those who sailed on the earth thought it was rain, this 
water which they poured out from above." 

" They (the other canoes) sailed to Giribwa, they saw 
a canoe anchored there. They said : ' Is that the canoe 
from Dobu ? ' They thought so, they wanted to lebu 
(take by force, but not necessarily as a hostile act) the 
buna (big cowrie) shells of the Dobu people. Then they 
saw the dog walking on the beach. They said : ' Wi-i-i ! 
This is Tokulubweydoga, the dog of the Lukuba ! This 
canoe they lashed in the village, in the village of Kudayuri. 
Which way did it come ? It was anchored in the jungle ! ' 
They approached the people of Kudayuri, they spoke : 
' Which way did you come ? ' ' Oh, I came together with 
you (the same way).' ' It rained. Did it rain over you ? ' 
' Oh yes, it has rained over me/ " 

" Next day, they (the men of the other villages of 
Kitava), sailed to Vakuta and went ashore. They made 
their Kula. The next day they sailed, and he (Mokatu- 
boda) remained in Vakuta. When they disappeared on the 
sea, his canoe flew. He flew from Vakuta. When they 
(the other crews) arrived in Gumasila, he was there on the 
promontory of Lububuyama. They said : ' This canoe 
is like the canoe of our companions/ and the dog came out. 
' This is the dog of the Lukuba clan of Kudayuri/ They 
asked him again which way he came ; he said he came 
the same way as they. They made the Kula in Gumasila. 
He said : ' You sail first, I shall sail later on/ They were 
astonished * ' Which way does he sail ? ' They slept 
in Gumasila." 

* The reader will note that this is the same name, which another mythical 
log bore, also of the Lukuba clan as all dogs are, the one namely from whom 
he kayga'u magic is traced. Cf. Chapter X, Division V. 


" Next day they sailed to Tewara, they arrived at the 
beach of Kadimwatu. They saw his canoe anchored 
there, the dog came out and ran along the beach. They 
spoke to the Kudayuri men, ' How did you come here ? * 
' We came with you, the same way we came/ They made 
Kula in Tewara. Next day, they sailed to Bwayowa 
(village in Dobu district) He flew, and anchored at the 
beach Sarubwoyna. They arrived there, they saw : k ' Oh, 
look at the canoe, are these fishermen from Dobu ? ' The 
dog came out. They recognised the dog. They asked 
him (Mokatuboda) which way he came : ' I came with 
you, I anchored here/ They went to the village of 
Bwayowa, they made Kula in the village, they loaded their 
canoes. They received presents from the Dobu people 
at parting, and the Kitava men sailed on the return 
journey. They sailed first, and he flew through the air/ " 

On the return journey, at every stage, they see him 
first, they ask him which way he went, and he gives them 
some sort of answer as the above ones. 

" From Giribwa they sailed to Kitava ; he remained in 
Giribwa ; he flew from Giribwa ; he went to Kitava, to 
the beach. His gugu'a (personal belongings) were being 
carried to the village when his companions came paddling 
along, and saw his canoe anchored and the dog running on 
the beach. All the other men were very angry, because 
his canoe flew/' 

" They remained in Kitava. Next year, they made their 
gardens, all the men of Kitava. The sun was very strong, 
there was no rain at all. The sun burned their gardens. 
This man (the head man of Kudayuri, Mokatuboda) went 
into the garden. He remained there, he made a 
bulubwalata (evil magic) of the rain. A small cloud came 
and rained on his garden only, and their gardens the sun 
burned. They (the other men of Kitava) went and saw 
their gardens. They arrived there, they saw all was 
dead, already the sun had burned them. They went to 
his garden and it was all wet : yams, taitu, taro, all was fine. 
They spoke : ' Let us kill him so that he might die. We 
shall then speak magic over the clouds, and it will rain 
over our gardens/ " 

" The real, keen magic, the Kudayuri man (i.e. 
Mokatuboda) did not give to them ; he gave them not 
the magic of the ligogu (adze) ; he gave them not the magic 
of kunisalili (rain magic) ; he gave them not the magic 
of the wayugo (lashing creeper), of the coco-nut oil and 
staff. Toweyre'i, his younger brother, thought that he 


had already received the magic, but he was mistaken. 
His elder brother gave him only part of the magic, the real 
one he kept back/' 

" They came (to Mokatuboda, the head man of 
Kudayuri), he sat in his village. His brothers and maternal 
nephews sharpened the spear, they hit him, he died." 

" Next year, they decided to make a big Kula expe- 
dition, to Dobu. The old waga, cut and lashed by 
Mokatuboda, was no more good, the lashings had perished. 
Then Toweyre'i, the younger brother, cut a new one to 
replace the old. The people of Kumwageya and Lalela 
(the other villages in Kitava) heard that Toweyre'i cuts 
his waga, and they also cut theirs. They pieced and lashed 
their canoes on the beach. Toweyre'i did it in the village." 

Here the native narrative enumerates every detail of 
canoe making, drawing the contrast between the pro- 
ceedings on the beach of the other Kitavans, and of 
Toweyre'i building the canoe in the village of Kudayuri. 
It is an exact repetition of what was said at the beginning, 
when Mokatuboda was building his canoe, and I shall not 
adduce it here. The narrative arrives at the critical 
moment when all the members of the crew are seated in 
the canoe ready for the flight. 

" Toweyre'i went into the house and made magic over 
the adze and the coco-nut oil. He came out, smeared a 
staff with the oil, knocked the skids of the canoe. He 
then did as his elder brother did. He struck both ends 
of the canoe with the adze. He jumped into the canoe 
and sat down ; but the waga did not fly. Toweyre'i went 
into the house and cried for his elder brother, whom he 
had slain ; he had killed him without knowing his magic. 
The people of Kumwageya and Lalela went to Dobu and 
made their Kula. The people of Kudayuri remained in 
the village." 

" The three sisters were very angry with Toweyre'i, for 
he killed the elder brother and did not learn his magic. 
They themselves had learnt the ligogu, the wayugo magic ; 
they had it already in their lopoula (belly). They could 
fly through the air, they were yoyova. In Kitava they 
lived on the top of Botigale'a hill. They said : ' Let us 
leave Kitava and fly away.' They flew through the air. 
One of them, Na'ukuwakula, flew to the West, pierced 
through the sea-passage Dikuwa'i (somewhere in the 
Western Trobriands) ; she arrived at Simsim (one of the 
Lousan^ay). There she turned into a stone, she stands 
in the sea." 


" The two others flew first (due West) to the beach of 
Yalumugwa (on the Eastern shore of Boyowa). There 
they tried to pierce the coral rock named Yakayba it 
was too hard. They went (further South on the Eastern 
shore) through the sea-passage of Vilasasa and tried to 
pierce the rock Kuyaluya they couldn't. They went 
(further South) and tried to pierce the rock of Kawakari 
it was too hard. They went (further South). They tried 
to pierce the rocks at Giribwa. They succeeded. That 
is why there is now a sea passage at Giribwa (the straits 
dividing the main island of Boyowa from the island of 

" They flew (further South) towards Dobu. They 
came to the island of Tewara. They came to the beach of 
Kadimwatu and pierced it. This is where the straits of 
Kadimwatu are now between the islands of Tewara and 
Uwania. They went to Dobu ; they travelled further 
South, to the promontory of Saramwa (near Dobu island). 
They spoke : ' Shall we go round the point or pierce right 
through ? ' They went round the point. They met 
another obstacle and pierced it through, making the 
Straits of Loma (at the Western end of Dawson Straits). 
They came back, they returned and settled near Tewara. 
They turned into stones ; they stand in the sea. One 
of them cast her eyes on Dobu, this is Murumweyri'a ; 
she eats men, and the Dobuans are cannibals. The other 
one, Kayguremwo, does not eat men, and her face is 
turned towards Boyowa. The people of Boyowa do not 
eat man." 

This story is extremely clear in its general outline, and 
very dramatic, and all its incidents and developments have a 
high degree of consistency and psychological motivation. It 
is perhaps the most telling of all myths from this part of the 
world which came under my notice. It is also a good example 
of what has been said before in Division II. Namely that the 
identical conditions, sociological and cultural, which obtain at 
the present time, are also reflected in mythical narratives. 
The only exception to this is the much higher efficiency of magic 
found in the world of myth. The tale of Kudayuri, on the one 
hand, describes minutely the sociological conditions of the 
heroes, their occupations and concerns, and all these do not 
differ at all from the present ones. On the other hand, it shows 
the hero endowed with a truly super-normal power through his 
magic of canoe building and of rain making. Nor could it be 


more convincingly stated than is done in this narrative that the 
full knowledge of the right magic was solely responsible for these 
supernatural powers. 

In its enumeration of the various details of tribal life, this 
myth is truly a fount of ethnographic information. Its state- 
ments, when made complete and explicit by native comment, 
contain a good deal of what is to be known about the sociology, 
technology and organisation of canoe-making, sailing, and of 
the Kula. If followed up into detail, the incidents of this 
narrative make us acquainted for instance, with the division 
into clans ; with the origin and local character of these latter ; 
with ownership of magic and its association with the totemic 
group. In almost all mythological narratives of the Trobri- 
ands, the clan, the sub-clan and the locality of the heroes are 
stated. In the above version, we see that the heroes have 
emerged at a certain spot, and that they themselves came 
from underground ; that is, that they are the first representa- 
tives of their totemic sub-clan on the surface of the earth. In 
the two other versions, this last point was not explicitly stated, 
though I think it is implied in the incidents of this myth, for 
obviously the flying canoe is built for the first time, as it is for 
the last. In other versions, I was told that the hole from which 
this sub-clan emerged is also called Kudayuri, and that the 
name of their magical system is Viluvayaba. 

Passing to the following part of the tale, we find in it a 
description of canoe-building, and this was given to me in the 
same detailed manner in all three versions. Here again, if we 
would substitute for the short sentences a fuller account of 
what happens, such as could be elicited from any intelligent 
native informant ; if for each word describing the stages of 
canoe-building we insert a full description of the processes for 
which these words stand we would have in this myth an 
almost complete, ethnographic account of canoe-building. 
We would see the canoe pieced together, lashed, caulked, 
painted, rigged out, provided with a sail till it lies ready to be 
launched. Besides the successive enumeration of technical 
stages, we have in this myth a clear picture of the role played 
by the headman, who is the nominal owner of the canoe, and 
who speaks of it as his canoe and at the same time directs its 
building ; overrides the wishes of others, and is responsible 
for the magic. We have even the mention of the tasasoria and 


kabigidoya, and several allusions to the Kula expedition of 
which the canoe-building in this myth is represented as a 
preliminary stage. The frequent, tedious repetitions and 
enumerations of customary sequences of events, interesting as 
data of folk-lore, are not less valuable as ethnographic docu- 
ments, and as illustrations of the natives' attitude towards 
custom. Incidentally, this feature of native mythology 
shows that the task of serving as ethnographic informant is 
not so foreign and difficult to a native as might at first appear. 
He is quite used to recite one after the other the various stages 
of customary proceedings in his own narratives, and he does 
it with an almost pedantic accuracy and completeness, and it 
is an easy task for him to transfer these qualities to the accounts, 
which he is called upon to make in the service of ethnography. 

The dramatic effect of the climax of the story, of the unex- 
pected flight of the canoe is clearly brought out in the narrative, 
and it was given to me in all its three versions. In all three, 
the members of the crew are made to pass through the numerous 
preparatory stages of sailing. And the parallel drawn between 
the reasonable proceedings of their fellows on the beach, and the 
absurd manner in which they are made to get ready in the 
middle of the village, some few hundred feet above the sea, 
makes the tension more palpable and the sudden denouement 
more effective. In all accounts of this myth, the magic is also 
performed just before the flight, and its performance is explicitly 
mentioned and included as an important episode in the story. 

The incident of bailing some water out of a canoe which 
never touched the sea, seems to show some inconsistency. If 
we remember, however, that water is poured into a canoe, 
while it is built, in order to prevent its drying and consequently 
its shrinking, cracking and warping, the inconsistency and flaw 
in the narrative disappear. I may add that the bailing and 
rain incident is contained in one of my three versions only. 

The episode of the dog is more significant and more impor- 
tant to the natives, and is mentioned in all three versions. The 
dog is the animal associated with the Lukuba clan ; that is, the 
natives will say that the dog is a Lukuba, as the pig is a 
Malasi, and the igwana a Lukulabuta. In several stories about 
the origin and relative rank of the clans, each of them is repre- 
sented by its totemic animal. Thus the igwana is the first to 
emerge from underground. Hence the Lukulabuta are the 


oldest clan. The dog and the pig dispute with one another the 
priority of rank, the dog basing his claims on his earlier appear- 
ance on the earth, for he followed immediately the igwana , 
the pig, asserting himself in virtue of not eating unclean things. 
The pig won the day, and therefore the Malasi clan are con- 
sidered to be the clan of the highest rank, though this is really 
reached only in one of its sub-clans, that of the Tabalu of 
Omarakana. The incident of the lebu (taking by force) of some 
ornaments from the Dobuans refers to the custom of using 
friendly violence in certain Kula transactions (see chapter XIV, 
Division II). 

In the second part of the story, we find the hero endowed 
again with magical powers far superior to those of the present- 
day wizards. They can make rain, or stay the clouds, it is 
true, but he is able to create a small cloud which pours copious 
rain over his own gardens, and leaves the others to be shrivelled 
up by the sun. This part of the narrative does not touch the 
canoe problem, and it is of interest to us only in so far as it 
again shows what appears to the natives the real source of their 
hero's supernatural powers. 

The motives which lead to the killing of Mokatuboda are not 
stated explicitly in the narrative. No myth as a rule enters 
very much into the subjective side of its events. But, from the 
lengthy, indeed wearisome repetition of how the other Kitava 
men constantly find the Kudayuri canoe outrunning them, how 
they are astonished and angry, it is clear that his success must 
have made many enemies to Mokatuboda. What is not so 
easily explained, is the fact that he is killed, not by the other 
Kitava men, but by his own kinsmen. One of the versions 
mentions his brothers and his sister's sons as the slayers. 
One of them states that the people of Kitava ask Toweyre'i, the 
younger brother, whether he has already acquired the flying 
magic and the rain magic, and only after an affirmative is 
received, is Mokatuboda killed by his younger brother, in 
connivance with the other people. An interesting variant is 
added to this version, according to which Toweyre'i kills his 
elder brother in the garden. He then comes back to the village 
and instructs and admonishes Mokatuboda's children to take 
the body, to give it the mortuary attentions, to prepare for the 
burial. Then he himself arranges the sagali, the big mortuary 
distribution of food. In this we find an interesting document 


of native custom and ideas. Toweyre'i, in spite of having 
killed his brother, is still the man who has to arrange the 
mortuary proceedings, act as master of ceremonies, and pay 
for the functions performed in them by others. He personally 
may neither touch the corpse, nor do any act of mourning or 
burial ; nevertheless he, as the nearest of kin of the dead man, 
is the bereaved one, is the one from whom a limb has been 
severed, so to speak. A man whose brother has died cannot 
mourn any more than he could mourn for himself.* To return 
to the motives of killing, as this was done according to all 
accounts by Mokatuboda's own kinsmen, with the approval of 
the other men, envy, ambition, the desire to succeed the head- 
man in his dignity, must have been mixed with spite against 
him. In fact, we see that Toweyre'i proceeds confidently to 
perform the magic, and bursts out into wailing only after he has 
discovered he has been duped. 

Now we come to one of the most remarkable incidents of the 
whole myth, that namely which brings into connection the 
yoyova, or the flying witches, with the flying canoe, and with 
such speed of a canoe, as is imparted to it by magic. In 
the spells of swiftness there are frequent allusions to the yoyova 
or mulukwausi. This can be clearly seen in the spell of the 
wayugo, already adduced (Chapter V, Division III), and 
which is still to be analysed linguistically (Chapter XVIII, 
Divisions II to IV). The kariyala (magical portent, cf. 
Chapter XVII, Division VII) of the wayugo spell consists in 
shooting stars, that is, when a wayugo rite is performed at night 
over the creeper coils, there will be stars falling in the sky. 
And again, when a magician, knowing this system of magic, 
dies, shooting stars will be seen. Now, as we have seen 
(Chapter X, Division I), falling stars are mulukwausi in their 

In this story of the Kudayuri we see the mythological 
ground for this association. The same magic which allowed 
the canoe to sail through the air gives the three sisters of 
Kudayuri their power of being mulukwausi, and of flying. In 
this myth they are also endowed with the power of cleaving 
the rocks, a power which they share with the canoe, which 

* Cf . Professor C. G. Seligman, " The Melanesians," Chapter LIV, " Burial 
and Mourning Ceremonies " (among the natives of the Trobriand Islands, 
of Woodlark and the Marshall Bennetts). 


cleft a rock immediately after leaving the village. The three 
sisters cleave rocks and pierce the land in several places. My 
native commentators assured me that when the canoe first 
visited Giribwa and Kadimwatu at the beginning of this myth, 
the land was still joined at these places and there was a beach 
at each of them. The mulukwausi tried to pierce Boyowa at 
several spots along the Eastern coast, but succeeded only at 
Giribwa. The myth thus has the archaic stamp of referring 
to deep changes in natural features. The two sisters, who fly 
to the South return from the furthest point and settle near 
Tewara, in which there is some analogy to several other myths 
in which heroes from the Marshall Bennett Islands settle down 
somewhere between the Amphletts and Dobu. One of them 
turns her eyes northwards towards the non-cannibal people of 
Boyowa and she is said to be averse to cannibalism. Probably 
this is a sort of mythological explanation of why the Boyowan 
people do not eat men and the Dobuans do, an explanation to 
which there is an analogy in another myth shortly to be 
adduced, that of Atu'a'ine and Aturamo'a, and a better one still 
in a myth about the origins of cannibalism, which I cannot 
quote here. 

In all these traditions, so far, the heroes belonged to the 
clan of Lukuba. To it belong Gere'u, Tokosikuna, the 
Kudayuri family and their dog, and also the dog, Tokulubway- 
doga of the myth told in Chapter X, Division V. I may add 
that, in some legends told about the origin of humanity, this 
clan emerges first from underground and in some it 
emerges second in time, but as the clan of highest rank, 
though in this it has to yield afterwards to the Malasi. The 
main Kultur-hero of Kiriwina, the ogre-slayer Tudava, belongs, 
also to the clan of Lukuba, There is even a historic fact, which 
agrees with this mythological primacy, and subsequent eclipse. 
The Lukuba were, some six or seven generations ago, the 
leading clan in Vakuta, and then they had to surrender the 
chieftainship of this place to the Malasi clan, when the sub-clan 
of the Tabalu, the Malasi chiefs of the highest rank in Kiriwina, 
migrated South, and settled down in Vakuta. In the myths 
quoted here, the Lukuba are leading canoe-builders, sailors, 
and adventurers, that is with one exception, that of Tokosikuna, 
who, though excelling in all other respects, knows nothing of 
canoe construction. 


Let us now proceed to the last named mythological centre, 
and taking a very big step from the Marshall Bennetts, return 
to Tewara, and to its myth of the origin of the Kula. I shall 
tell this myth in a translation, closely following the original 
account, obtained in Kiriwinian from an informant at Obu^aku. 
I had an opportunity of checking and amending his narrative, 
by the information obtained from a native of Sanaro'a in 
pidgin English. 


" Kasabwaybwayreta lived in Tewara. He heard the 
renown of a soulava (spondylus necklace) which was lying 
(kept) in Wawela. Its name was Gumakarakedakeda. 
He said to his children : ' Let us go to Wawela, make Kula 
to get this soulava.' He put into his canoe unripe coco-nut, 
undeveloped betel-nut, green bananas." 

" They went to Wawela ; they anchored in Wawela. 
His sons went ashore, they went to obtain Gumakara- 
kedakeda. He remained in the canoe. His son made 
offering of food, they (the Wawela people) refused. 
Kasabwaybwayreta spoke a charm over the betel-nut : 
it yellowed (became ripe) ; he spoke the charm over the 
coco-nut : its soft kernel swelled ; he charmed the 
bananas : they ripened. He took off his hajr, his gray 
hair ; his wrinkled skin, it remained in the canoe. He rose, 
he went, he gave a pokala offering of food, he received the 
valuable necklace as Kula gift, for he was already a 
beautiful man. He went, he put it down, he thrust it into 
his hair. He came to the canoe, he took his covering 
(the sloughed skin) ; he donned the wrinkles, the gray hairs, 
he remained." 

" His sons arrived, they took their places in the canoe, 
they sailed to Giribwa. They cooked their food. He 
called his grandson ; ' Oh, my grandson, come here, look 
for my lice. 1 The grandson came there, stepped near 
him. Kasabwaybwayreta spoke, telling him : ' My 
grandson, catch my lice in the middle (of my hair)/ His 
grandson parted his hair ; he saw the valuable necklace, 
Gumakarakedakeda remaining there in the hair of 
Kasabwaybwayreta. ' Ee. . .'he spoke to his father, 
telling him, ' My father, Kasabwaybwayreta already 
obtained Gumakarakedakeda/ ' O, no, he did not 


obtain it ! I am a chief, I am beautiful, I have not 
obtained that valuable. Indeed, would this wrinkled old 
man have obtained the necklace ? No, indeed ! ' 
* Truly, my father, he has obtained it already. I have 
seen it ; already it remains in his hair ! ' " 

" All the water- vessels are empty already ; the son 
went into the canoe, spilled the water so that it ran out, 
and only the empty vessels (made of coco-nut shell) 
remained. Later on they sailed, they went to an island, 
Gabula (Gabuwana in Amphlettan and in Dobuan). This 
man, Kasabwaybwayreta wanted water, and spoke to his 
son. This man picked up the water vessels no, they were 
all empty. They went on the beach of Gabula, the 
usagelu (members of the crew) dug out their water-holes 
(in the beach). This man remained in the canoe and 
called out : ' O my grandson, bring me here my water, go 
there and dip out my water ! ' The grandson said : ' No, 
come here and dip out (yourself) ! ' Later on, they dipped 
out water, they finished, and Kasabwaybwayreta came. 
They muddied the water, it was muddy. He sat down, he 

" They went, they sailed in the canoe. Kasabwaybway- 
reta called out, ' O, my son, why do you cast me off ? ' 
Spoke the son : ' I think you have obtained Gumakara- 
kedakeda ! ' ' O, by and by, my son, when we arrive in 
the village, I shall give it to you ! ' ' O, no ! Well, you 
remain, I shall go ! " He takes a stone, a binabina one, 
this man Kasabwaybwayreta, he throws so that he might 
make a hole in the canoe, and the men might go into the 
sea. No ! they sped away, they went, this stone stands 
up, it has made an island in the sea. They went, they 
anchored in Tewara. They (the villagers) asked : ' And 
where is Kasabwaybwayreta ? ' ' O, his son got angry 
with him, already he had obtained Gumakarakedakeda ! " 

' 'Well, then, this man Kasabwaybwayreta remained 
in the island Gabula. He saw Tokom'mwawa (evening 
star) approach. He spoke : ' My friend, come here, let 
me just enter into your canoe ! ' O no, I shall go to 
another place/ There came Kaylateku (Sirius). He 
asked him : ' Let me go with you/ He refused. There 
came Kayyousi (Southern Cross). Kasabwaybwayreta 
wanted to go with him. He refused. There came 
Umnakayva'u, (Alpha and Beta Centauri). He wanted a 
place in his canoe. He refused. There came Kibi (three 
stars widely distant, forming no constellation in our 
sky-chart). He also refused to take Kasabwaybwayreta. 


There came Uluwa (the Pleiades). Kasabwaybwayreta 
asked him to take him. Uluwa said : ' You wait, you 
look out, there will come Kaykiyadiga, he will take 
you. 1 There came Kaykiyadiga (the three central stars 
in Orion's belt). Kasabwaybwayreta asked him : ' My 
friend, which way will you go ? ' 'I shall come down on 
top of Taryebutu mountain. I shall go down, I shall go 
away/ ' Oh, my friend, come here, let me just sit down 
(on you).' ' Oh come, see on one side there is a va'i 
(stingaree) on the other side, there is the lo'u (a fish with 
poisonous spikes) ; you sit in the middle, it will be well ! 
Where is your village ? ' ' My village is Tewara.' ' What 
stands in the site of your village ? ' 'In the site of my 
village, there stands a busa tree ! " 

" They went there. Already the village of Kasabway- 
bwayreta is straight below them. He charmed this busa 
tree, it arose, it went straight up into the skies. 
Kasabwaybwayreta changed place (from Orion's belt on to 
the tree), he sat on the busa tree. He spoke : ' Oh, my 
friend, break asunder this necklace. Part of it, I shall 
give you ; part of it, I shall carry to Tewara. 1 He gave 
part of it to his companion. This busa tree came down 
to the ground. He was angry because his son left him 
behind. He went underground inside. He there remained 
for a long time. The dogs came there, and they dug and 
dug. They dug him out. He came out on top, he became 
a tauv'a'u (evil spirit, see Chapter II, Division VII.) He 
hits human beings. That is why in Tewara the village is 
that of sorcerers and witches, because of Kasabwaybway- 

To make this somewhat obscure narrative clearer, a short 
commentary is necessary. The first part tells of a Kula expe- 
dition in which the hero, his son, his grandson, and some 
other members of the crew take part. His son takes with him 
good, fresh food, to give as solicitory offering and thus tempt 
his partners to present him with the famous necklace. The son 
is a young man and also a chief of renown. The later stages are 
clearer ; by means of magic, the hero changes himself into a 
young, attractive man, and makes his own unripe, bad fruit 
into splendid gifts to be offered to his partner. He obtains 
the prize without difficulty, and hides it in his hair. Then, in 
a moment of weakness, and for motives which it is impossible 
to find out from native commentators, he on purpose reveals 
the necklace to his grandson. Most likely, the motive was 


vanity. His son, and probably also the other companions, 
become very angry and set a trap for him. They arrange 
things so that he has to go for his own water on the beach of 
Gabula. When they have already got theirs and while he is 
dipping it out, they sail away, leaving him marooned on the 
sand-bank. Like Polyphemus after the escaping party of 
Odysseus, he throws a stone at the treacherous canoe, but it 
misses its mark, and becomes an outstanding rock in the sea. 

The episode of his release by the stars is quite clear. 
Arrived at the village, he makes a tree rise by his magic, and 
after he has given the bigger part of his necklace to his rescuer, 
he descends, with the smaller part. His going underground and 
subsequent turning into a tauva'u shows how bitter he feels 
towards humanity. As usual, the presence of such a powerful, 
evil personality in the village, gives its stamp to the whole 
community, and this latter produces sorcerers and witches. All 
these additions and comments I obtained in cross-questioning 
my original informant. 

The Dobuan informant from Sanaro'a introduced one or 
two variants into the second part of the narrative. According 
to him, Kasabwaybwayreta marries while in the sky, and 
remains there long enough to beget three male and two female 
children. After he has made up his mind to descend to earth 
again, he makes a hole in the heavens, looks down and sees a 
betel-nut tree in his village. Then he speaks to his child, 
' When I go down, you pull at one end of the necklace/ He 
climbs down by means of the necklace on to the betel palm and 
pulls at one end of Gumakarakedakeda. It breaks, a big piece 
remains in the skies, the small one goes with him below. 
Arrived in the village, he arranges a feast, and invites all the 
villagers to it. He speaks some magic over the food and after 
they have eaten it, the villagers are turned into birds. This 
last act is quite in harmony with his profession of tauva'u, 
which he assumed in the previous version of the myth. My 
Dobuan informant also added, by way of commentary, that the 
companions of Kasabwaybwayreta were angry with him, 
because he obtained the necklace in Boyowa, which was not the 
right direction for a necklace to travel in the Kula. This, 
however, is obviously a rationalisation of the events of the myth. 

Comparing the previously related story of Tokosikuna 
with this one, we see at once a clear resemblance between them 


in several features. In both, the heroes start as old, decrepit, 
and very ugly men. By their magical powers, they rejuvenate 
in the course of the story, the one permanently, the other just 
sloughing off his skin for the purpose of a Kula transaction. In 
both cases, the hero is definitely superior in the Kula, and by this 
arouses the envy and hatred of his companions. Again, in both 
stories, the companions decide to punish the hero, And the 
island or sandbank of Gabuwana is the scene of the punish- 
ment. In both, the hero finally settles in the South, only in 
one case it is his original home, while in the other he has 
migrated there from one of the Marshall Bennett Islands. An 
anomaly in the Kasabwaybwayreta myth, namely, that he 
fetches his necklace from the North, whereas the normal 
direction for necklaces to travel is from South to North in this 
region, makes us suspect that perhaps this story is a transfor- 
mation of a legend about a man who made the Kula from the 
North. Ill-treated by his companions, he settled in Tewara, 
and becoming a local Kultur-hero, was afterwards described 
as belonging to the place. However this might be, and the 
hypothetical interpretation is mine, and not obtained from the 
natives, the two stories are so similar that they must be 
regarded obviously as variants of the same myth, and not as 
independent traditions. 


So much about the ethnographic analysis of these myths. 
Let us now return to the general, sociological considerations 
with which we opened this digression into mythology. We 
are now better able to realise to what extent and in what manner 
Kula myths influence the native outlook. 

The main social force governing all tribal life could be 
described as the inertia of custom, the love of uniformity of 
behaviour. The great moral philosopher was wrong when he 
formulated his categorical imperative, which was to serve human 
beings as a fundamental guiding principle of behaviour. In 
advising us to act so that our behaviour might be taken as a 
norm of universal law, he reversed the natural state of things. 
The real rule guiding human behaviour is this : " what everyone 
else does, what appears as norm of general conduct, this is 
right, moral and proper. Let me look over the fence and see 
what my neighbour does, and take it as a rule for my 


behaviour." So acts every ' man-in-the-street ' in our own 
society, so has acted the average member of any society through 
the past ages, and so acts the present-day savage ; and the 
lower his level of cultural development, the greater stickler he 
will be for good manners, propriety and form, and the more 
incomprehensive and odious to him will be the non-conforming 
point of view. Systems of social philosophy have been built to 
explain and interpret or misinterpret this general principle. 
Tarde's ' Imitation/ Giddings' ' Consciousness of Kind/ Durk- 
heim's ' Collective Ideas/ and many such conceptions as ' social 
consciousness/ 'the soul of a nation/ 'group mind ' or now- 
a-days prevalent and highly fashionable ideas about ' suggesti- 
bility of the crowd/ ' the instinct of herd/ etc., etc., try to cover 
this simple empirical truth. Most of these systems, especially 
those evoking the Phantom of Collective Soul are futile, to my 
mind, in so far as they try to explain in the terms of a hypothesis 
that which is most fundamental in sociology, and can therefore 
be reduced to nothing else, but must be simply recognised and 
accepted as the basis of our science. To frame verbal defini- 
tions and quibble over terms does not seem to bring us much 
more forward in a new branch of learning, where a knowledge of 
facts is above all needed. 

Whatever might be the case with any theoretical inter- 
pretations of this principle, in this place, we must simply 
emphasise that a strict adherence to custom, to that which is 
done by everyone else, is the main rule of conduct among our 
natives in the Trobriands. An important corollary to this 
rule declares that the past is more important than the present. 
What has been done by the father or, as the Trobriander 
would say, by the maternal uncle is even more important as 
norm of behaviour than what is done by the brother. It is to 
the behaviour of the past generati6ns that the Trobriander 
instinctively looks for his guidance. Thus the mythical events 
which relate what has been done, not by the immediate 
ancestors but by mythical, illustrious forbears, must evidently 
carry an enormous social weight. The stories of important 
past events are hallowed because they belong to the great 
mythical generations and because they are generally accepted 
as truth, for everybody knows and tells them. They bear the 
sanction of righteousness and propriety in virtue of these two 
qualities of preterity and universality. 


Thus, through the operation of what might be called the 
elementary law of sociology, myth possesses the normative 
power of fixing custom, of sanctioning modes of behaviour, of 
giving dignity and importance to an institution. The Kula 
receives from these ancient stories its stamp of extreme impor- 
tance and value. The rules of commercial honour, of generosity 
and punctiliousness in all its operations, acquire through this 
their binding force. This is what we could call the normative 
influence of myth on custom. 

The Kula myth, however, exercises another kind of appeal. 
In the Kula, we have a type of enterprise where the vast 
possibilities of success are very much influenced by chance. 
A man, whether he be rich or poor in partners, may, according 
to his luck, return with a relatively big or a small haul from an 
expedition. Thus the imagination of the adventurers, as in 
all forms of gambling, must be bent towards lucky hits and 
turns of extraordinarily good chance. The Kula myths feed 
this imagination on stories of extreme good luck, and at the 
same time show that it lies in the hands of man to bring this 
luck on himself, provided he acquires the necessary magical 

I have said before that the mythological events are dis- 
tinct from those happening nowadays, in so far as they are 
extraordinary and super-normal. This adds both to their 
authoritative character and to their desirability. It sets them 
before the native as a specially valuable standard of conduct, 
and as an ideal towards which their desires must go out. 


But I also said before that, distinct as it is, the mythical 
world is not separated by an unbridgable gulf from the present 
order of events. Indeed, though an ideal must be always 
beyond what actually exists, yet it must appear just within 
reach of realisation if it is to be effective at all. Now, after we 
have become acquainted with their stories, we can see clearly 
what was meant when it was said, that magic acts as a link 
between the mythical and the actual realities. In the canoe 
myth, for instance, the flying, the super-normal achievement 
of the Kudayuri canoe, is conceived only as the highest degree 
of the virtue of speed, which is still being imparted nowadays 
to canoes by magic. The magical heritage of the Kudayuri 


clan is still there, making the canoes sail fast. Had it been 
transmitted in its complete form, any present canoe, like the 
mythical one, could be seen- flying. In the Kula myths also, 
magic is found to give super-normal powers of beauty, strength 
and immunity from danger. The mythological events 
demonstrate the truth of the claims of magic. Their validity 
is established by a sort of retrospective, mythical empiry. 
But magic, as it is practised nowadays, accomplishes the same 
effects, only in a smaller degree. Natives believe deeply that 
the formulae and rites of mwasila magic make those who carry 
them out attractive, irresistible and safe from dangers (compare 
next chapter). 

Another feature which brings the mythical events into 
direct connection with the present state of affairs, is the sociology 
of mythical personages. They all are associated with certain 
localities, as are the present local groups. They belong to the 
same system of totemic division into clans and sub-clans as 
obtains nowadays. Thus, members of a sub-clan, or a local 
unit, can claim a mythical hero as their direct ancestor, and 
members of a clan can boast of him as of a clansman. Indeed, 
myths, like songs and fairy stories, are ' owned ' by certain sub- 
clans This does not mean that other people would abstain 
from telling them, but members of the sub-clan are supposed 
to possess the most intimate knowledge of the mythical events, 
and to be an authority in interpreting them. And indeed, it is 
a rule that a myth will be best known in its own locality, that is, 
known with all the details and free from any adulterations or not 
quite genuine additions and fusions. 

This better knowledge can be easily understood, if we 
remember that myth is very often connected with magic in the 
Trobriands, and that this latter is a possession, kept by some 
members of the local group. Now, to know the magic, and to 
understand it properly, it is necessary to be well acquainted 
with the myth. This is the reason why the myth must be better 
known in the local group with which it is connected. In some 
cases, the local group has not only to practise the magic 
associated with the myth, but it has to look after the observ- 
ance of certain rites, ceremonies and taboos connected with it. 
In this case, the sociology of the mythical events is intimately 
bound up with the social divisions as they exist now. But even 
in such myths as those of the Kula, which have become the 


property of all clans and local groups within the district, the 
explicit statement of the hero's clan, sub-clan and of his village 
gives the whole myth a stamp of actuality and reality. Side by 
side with magic, the sociological continuity bridges over the gap 
between the mythical and the actual. And indeed the magical 
and the sociological bridges run side by side. 

I spoke above (beginning of Division II) of the enlivening 
influence of myth upon landscape. Here it must be noted 
also that the mythically changed features of the landscape bear 
testimony in the native's mind to the truth of the myth. 
The mythical word receives its substance in rock and hill, in 
the changes in land and sea. The pierced sea-passages, the cleft 
boulders, the petrified human beings, all these bring the 
mythological world close to the natives, make it tangible and 
permanent. On the other hand, the story thus powerfully 
illustrated, re-acts on the landscape, fills it with dramatic 
happenings, which, fixed there for ever, give it a definite mean- 
ing. With this I shall close these general remarks on mythology 
though with myth and mythical events we shall constantly 
meet in further inquiries. 


As we return to our party, who, sailing past the mythical 
centre of Tewara, make for the island of Sanaro'a, the first thing 
to be related about them, brings us straight to another mytho- 
logical story. As the natives enter the district of Siayawawa, 
they pass a stone or rock, called Sinatemubadiye'i. I have 
not seen it, but the natives tell me it lies among the mangroves 
in a tidal creek. Like the stone Gurewaya, mentioned before, 
this one also enjoys certain privileges, and offerings are given 
to it. 

The natives do not tarry in this unimportant district. 
Their'final goal is now in sight. Beyond the sea, which is here 
land-locked like a lake, the hills of Dobu, topped by Koyava'u 
loom before them. In the 'distance to their right as they sail 
South, the broad Easterly flank of Koyatabu runs down to the 
water, forming a deep valley ; behind them spreads the wide 
plain of Sanaro'a, with a few volcanic cones at its Northern end, 
and far to the left the mountains of Normanby unfold in a long 
chain. They sail straight South, making for the beach of 
Sarubwoyna, where they will have to pause for a ritual halt in 


order to carry out the final preparations and magic. They 
steer towards two black rocks, which mark the Northern end of 
Sarubwoyna beach as they stand, one at the base, the other 
at the end of a narrow, sandy spit. These are the two rocks 
Atu'a'ine and Aturamo'a, the most important of the tabooed 
places, at which natives lay offerings when starting or arriving 
on Kula expeditions. The rock among the mangroves of 
Siyawawa is connected with these two by a mythical story. 
The three two men whom we see now before us in petrified 
form, and one, woman came to this district from somewhere 
' Omuyuwa/ that is, from Woodlark Island or the Marshall 
Bennetts. This is the story : 


" They were two brothers and a sister. They came 
first to the creek called Kadawaga in Siyawawa. The 
woman lost her comb. She spoke to her brethren : ' My 
brothers, my comb fell down/ They answered her : 
' Good, return, take your comb/ She found it and took 
it, and next day she said : ' Well, I shall remain here 
already, as Sinatemubadiye'i/ " 

" The brothers went on. When they arrived at the 
shore of the main island, Atu'a'ine said : ' Aturamo'a, 
how shall we go ? Shall we look towards the sea ? ' Said 
Aturamo'a ; ' O, no, let us look towards the jungle/ 
Aturamo'a went ahead, deceiving his brother, for he was a 
cannibal. He wanted to look towards the jungle, so that 
he might eat men. Thus Aturamo'a went ahead, and his 
eyes turned towards the jungle. Atu'a'ine turned his eyes, 
looked over the sea, he spoke : ' Why did you deceive me, 
Aturamo'a ? Whilst I am looking towards the sea, you 
look towards the jungle/ Aturamo'a later on returned 
and came towards the sea. He spoke, ' Good, you 
Atu'a'ine, look towards the sea, I shall look to the jungle ! * 
This man, who sits near the jungle, is a cannibal, the one 
who sits near the sea is good." 

This short version of the myth I obtained in Sinaketa. 
The story shows us three people migrating for unknown reasons 
from the North-East to this district. The sister, after having 
lost her comb, decides to remain in Siyawawa, and turns into 
the rock Sinatemubadiye'i. The brothers go only a few miles 
further, to undergo the same transformation at the Northern end 
of Sarubwoyna beach. There is the characteristic distinction 


between the cannibal and the non-cannibal. As the story 
was told to me in Boyowa, that is, in the district where they 
were not man-eaters, the qualification of ' good ' was given to 
the non-cannibal hero, who became the rock further out to sea. 
The same distinction is to be found in the previously quoted 
myth of the Kudayuri sisters who flew to Dobu, and it is to 
be found also in a myth, told about the origins of cannibalism, 
which I shall not quote here. The association between the 
jungle and cannibalism on the one hand, and between the sea 
and abstention from human flesh on the other, is the same as 
the one in the Kudayuri myth. In that myth, the rock which 
looks towards the South is cannibal, while the Northern one is 
not, and for the natives this is the reason why the Dobuans 
do eat human flesh and the Boyowans do not. The designation 
of one of these rocks as a man-eater (tokamlata'u) has no 
further meaning, more especially it is not associated with 
the belief that any special dangers surround the rock. 

The importance of these two rocks, Atu'a'ine and Aturamo'a 
lies, however, not so much in the truncated myth as in the 
ritual surrounding them. Thus, all three stones receive an 
offering fiokala consisting of a bit of coco-nut, a stale yam, 
a piece of sugar cane and banana. As the canoes go past, the 
offerings are placed on the stone, or thrown towards it, with the 
words : 

" Old man (or in the case of Sinatemubadiyei, ' old 
woman ') " here comes your coco-nut, your sugar cane, 
your bananas, bring me good luck so that I may go and 
make my Kula quickly in Tu'utauna." 

This offering is given by the Boyowan canoes on their 
way to Dobu, and by the Dobuans as they start on the Kula 
Northwards, to Boyowa x . Besides the offerings, certain taboos 
and observances are kept at these rocks. Thus, any people 
passing close to the rock would have to bathe in the sea out of 
their canoes, and the children in the canoes would be sprinkled 
with sea-water. This is done to prevent disease. A man who 
would go for the first time to kula in Dobu would not be 
allowed to eat food in the vicinity of these rocks. A pig, 
or a green coco-nut would not be placed on the soil in this 
neighbourhood, but would have to be put on a mat. A novice 
in the Kula would have to make a point of going and bathing at 
the foot of Atu'a'ine and Aturamo'a. 


The Dolmans pokala some other stones, to which the 
Boyowans do not give any offerings. The previously men- 
tioned Gurewaya rock receives its share from the Dobuans, 
who believe that if they passed it close by without making a 
pokala, they would become covered with sores and die. Passing 
Gurewaya, they would not stand up in their canoes, nor would 
they eat any food when camping on a beach within sight 
of Gurewaya. If they did so, they would become seasick, fall 
asleep, and their canoe would drift away into the unknown. 
I do not know whether there is any myth in Dobu about the 
Gurewaya stone. There is a belief that a big snake is coiled on 
the top of this rock, which looks after the observance of the 
taboos, and in case of breach of any of them would send down 
sickness on them. Some of the taboos of Gurewaya are also 
kept by the Boyowans, but I do not exactly know which. 

I obtained from a Dobuan informant a series of names of 
other, similar stones, lying to the East of Dobu, on the route 
between there and Tubtube. Thus, somewhere in the district 
of Du'a'u, there is a rock called Kokorakakedakeda. Besides 
this, near a place called Makaydokodoko there is a stone, 
Tabudaya. Further East, near Bunama, a small stone called 
Sinada enjoys some Kula prestige. In a spot Sina'ena, which 
I cannot place on the map, there is a stone called Taryadab- 
woyro, with eye, nose, legs and hind-quarters shaped like those 
of a pig. This stone is called ' the mother of all the pigs, 1 and 
the district of Sina'ena is renowned for the abundance of these 
animals there. 

The only mythical fragment about any of these stones 
which I obtained is the one quoted above. Like the two Kula 
myths previously adduced, it is a story of a migration from 
North to South. There is no allusion to the Kula in the narra- 
tive, but as the stones are pokala'd in the Kula, there is 
evidently some association between it and them. To under- 
stand this association better, it must be realised that similar 
offerings are given in certain forms of magic to ancestral spirits 
and to spirits of Kultur-heroes, who have founded the institution 
in which the magic is practised. This suggests the conclusion 
that Atu'a'ine and Aturamo'a are heroes of the Kula like 
Tokosikuna and Kasabwaybwayreta ; and that their story is 
another variant of the fundamental Kula myth. 



WHEN the Sinaketan fleet passes the two mythical rocks of 
Atu'a'ine and Aturamoa, the final goal of the expedition has 
been already reached. For before them, there stretch in a wide 
expanse the N.W. shores of Dawson Straits, where on the wide 
beach, there are scattered the villages of Bwayowa, Tu'utauna 
and Deyde'i, at the foot of Koyava'u. This latter, the 
Boyowans call Koyaviguna the final mountain. Immediately 
behind the two rocks, there stretches the beach of Sarubwoyna, 
its clean, white sand edging the shallow curve of a small bay. 
This is the place where the crews, nearing their final destination, 
have to make a halt, to prepare" themselves magically for 
approaching their partners in Dobu. As, on their start from 
Sinaketa, they stopped for some time on Muwa and there 
performed the last act of their inaugurating rites and cere- 
monies, so in the same manner this beach is the place where 
they once more muster their forces after the journey has 
been accomplished. 

This is the place which was already mentioned in Chapter II 
when, in giving a description of the district, we imagined 
ourselves passing near this beach and meeting there a large fleet 
of canoes, whose crews were engaged in some mysterious 
activities. I said there that up to a hundred canoes might 
have been seen anchored near the beach, and indeed, on a big 
uvalaku expedition in olden days such a figure could easily have 
been reached. For, on a rough estimate, Sinaketa could have 
produced some twenty canoes ; the Vakutans could have joined 
them with about forty ; the Amphlettans with another twenty ; 
and twenty more \vould have followed from Tewara, Siyawawa, 
and Sanaroa. Some of them would indeed not have taken part 
in the Kula, but have followed only out of sheer curiosity, just 


as in the big uvalaku expedition, which I accompanied in 1918 
from Dobu to Sinaketa, the sixty Dobuan canoes were joined by 
some twelve canoes from the Amphletts and about as many 
again from Vakuta. 

The Sinaketans having arrived at this beach, now stop, 
moor the canoes near the shore, adorn their persons, and per- 
form a whole series of magical rites. Within a short space of 
time they crowd in a great number of short rites, accompanied 
by formulae as a rule not very long. In fact, from the moment 
they have arrived at Sarubwoyna up to their entry into the 
village, they do not cease doing one magical act or another, and 
the toliwaga never stop incessantly muttering their spells. To 
the observer, a spectacle of feverish activity unfolds itself, a 
spectacle which I witnessed in 1918 when I assisted at an 
analogous performance of the Dobuan Kula fleet approaching 

The fleet halts ; the sails are furled, the masts dismounted, 
the canoes moored (see Plate XLVIII). In each canoe, the 
elder men begin to undo their baskets and take out their 
personal belongings. The younger ones run ashore and gather 
copious supplies of leaves which they bring back into the canoes. 
Then the older men again murmur magical formulae over the 
leaves and over other substances. In this, the toliwaga is 
assisted by others. Then, they all wash in sea- water, and rub 
themselves with the medicated leaves. Coco-nuts are broken, 
scraped, medicated, and the skin is rubbed with the mess, 
which greases it and gives it a shining surface. A comb is 
chanted over, and the hair teased out with it (see Plate XLIX). 
Then, with crushed betel-nut mixed with lime, they draw red 
ornamental designs on their faces, while others use the 
sayyaku, an aromatic resinous stuff, and draw similar lines in 
black. The fine-smelling mint plant, which has been chanted 
over at home before starting, is taken out of its little receptacle 
where it was preserved in coco-nut oil. The herb is inserted into 
the armlets, while the few drops of oil are smeared over the 
body, and over the lilava, the magical bundle of pari (trade 

All the magic which is spoken over the native cosmetics is 
the mwasila (Kula magic) of beauty. The main aim of these 
spells is the same one which we found so clearly expressed in 
myth ; to make the man beautiful, attractive, and irresistible 


to his Kula partner. In the myths we saw how an old, ugly and 
ungainly man becomes transformed by his magic into a radiant 
and charming youth. Now this mythical episode is nothing 
else but an exaggerated version of what happens every time, 
when the mwasila of beauty is spoken on Sarubwoyna beach or 
on other similar points of approach. As my informants over 
and over again told me, when explaining the meaning of these 
rites : 

" Here we are ugly ; we feat bad fish, bad food ; our 
faces remain ugly. We want to sail to Dobu ; we keep 
taboos, we don't eat bad food. We go to Sarubwoyna ; 
we wash ; we charm the leaves of silasila ; we charm the 
coco-nut ; we putuma (anoint ourselves) ; we make our red 
paint and black paint ; we put in our fine-smelling vana 
(herb ornament in armlets) ; we arrive in Dobu beautiful 
looking. Our partner looks at us, sees our faces are 
beautiful ; he throws the vaygu'a at us/ 1 

The bad fish and bad food here mentioned are the articles 
which are tabooed to those who know the mwasila, and a man 
may often unwittingly break such a taboo. 

There is no doubt that a deep belief in the efficacy of such 
magic might almost make it effective. Although actual beauty 
cannot be imparted by spells, yet the feeling of being beautiful 
through magic may give assurance, and influence people in 
their behaviour and deportment, and as in the transaction it 
is the manner of the soliciting party which matters, this magic, 
no doubt, achieves its aim by pyschological means. 

This branch of Kula magic has two counter-parts in the 
other magical lore of the Trobrianders. One of them is the love 
magic, through which people are rendered attractive and 
irresistible. Their belief in these spells is such that a man 
would always attribute all his success in love to their efficiency. 
Another type closely analogous to the beauty magic of the 
Kula is the specific beauty magic practised before big dances 
and festivities. 

Let us now give one or two samples of the magic which is 
performed on Sarubwoyna beach. The ritual in all of it is 
exceedingly simple. In each case the formula is spoken over 
a certain substance, and then this substance is applied to the 
body. The first rite to be performed is that of ceremonial 
washing. The toliwaga brings his mouth close to the big 


bundles of herbs, brought from the shore and utters the 
formula called kaykakaya (the ablution formula) over them. 
After an ablution, these leaves are rubbed over the skins of 
all those in the canoe who practise Kula. Then, in the 
same succession as I mention them, the coco-nut, the comb, the 
ordinary or the aromatic black paint or the betel -nut are 
charmed over.* Only one, as a rule, of the paints is used. In 
some cases the ioliwaga does the spell for everybody. In other 
cases, a man who knows, say, the betel-nut or the comb spell, 
will do it for himself or even for all others. In some cases 
again, out of all these rites, only the kaykakaya (ablution) 
and one of the others will be performed. 


" O katatuna fish, O marabwaga fish, yabwau fish, 
reregu fish ! " 

" Their red paint, with which they are painted ; their 
red paint, with which they are adorned." 

" Alone they visit, together we visit ; alone they visit, 
together we visit a chief." 

" They take me to their bosom ; they hug me." 

" The great woman befriends me, where the pots are 
boiling ; the good woman befriends me, on the sitting 

" Two pigeons stand and turn round ; two parrots fly 

" No more it is my mother, my mother art thou, O woman 
of Dobu ! No more it is my father, my father art thou, O 
man of Dobu-! No more it is the high platform, the high 
platform are his arms ; no more it is the sitting platform, 
the sitting platform are his legs ; no more it is my lime 
spoon, my lime spoon is his tongue ; no more it is my 
lime pot, my lime pot is his gullet." 

This formula then passes into the same ending as the 
sulumwoya spell, quoted previously, Chapter VII, which 
runs : " Recently deceased spirit of my maternal uncle, 

At the beginning of this spell, we find enumerated a series of 
fish names. These fishes all have red markings on their bodies, 
and they are tabooed to the people, who recite the mwasila magic 
and do the Kula. If eaten, they would give a man an ugly 
appearance. The above quoted saying of one of my informants : 

* Compare also No. VI (A), in the Synoptic Table of Kula magic, in 
Chapter XVII, p. 418. 


" we eat bad fish, we are ugly/' refers to these fishes amongst 
others. In this formula, the invocation is partly an appeal for 
assistance, and partly a sort of exorcism, which is meant to undo 
the evil effects of breaking the taboo of eating these fish. As 
this formula is associated with the ritual washing, the whole 
preceding possesses a sort of magical consistency, which obtains 
within an exceedingly obscure and confused concatenation of 
ideas : the redness of the fish, the red painting on the human 
bodies for beauty, the invocation of the fishing magic, the taboo 
on this fish. These ideas hang together somehow, but it would 
be unwise and incorrect to attempt to put them into any logical 
order or sequence.* The sentence about ' visiting/ in this 
spell could not be made clear by any of my native informants. 
I venture to suggest that the fish are invited to assist the 
adventurer on his Kula visit, and to help him with their beauty. 

The next few sentences refer to the reception he anticipates 
at Dobu, in the forcible and exaggerated language of magic. 
The words which have been here translated by ' take to his 
bosom/ ' hug/ ' befriend/ are the terms used to describe the 
fondling and rocking and hugging of small children. According 
to native custom, it would not be considered effeminate or 
ridiculous for men to put their arms round each other and 
walk or sit about thus, And it must be added, this is done 
without any homo-sexual intention, at least of the grosser type. 
None the less, no such fondling would really take place between 
the Dobuans and their Kula partners. The mention of the 
' great woman/ the ' great good woman ' refers to the wife and 
sister of the partner, who, as we have said before, are considered 
to wield great influence in the transactions. 

The two pigeons and the two parrots express meta- 
phorically the friendship between the reciter of this magic 
and his partner. The long list that follows expresses the 
exchange of his ordinary relations for his Dobuan friends. An 
exaggerated description follows of the intimacy between him 
and his partner, on whose arms and legs he will sit, and from 
whose mouth he will partake of the betel chewing materials. 

I shall give a sample of another of these spells, associated 
with adornment and personal beauty. This is the spell spoken 

* There can be no better expression to denote the mutual relation of all 
these ideas than that used by Frazer to describe one of the typical forms of 
magic thought, the * contagion of ideas.' The subjective, psychological process 
leads the natives to the belief in magical contagion of things. 


over the betel-nut with which the toliwaga and the members of 
his canoe draw lines of vermilion red on their faces. Young 
betel-nut, when crushed with lime in a small mortar, produces 
pigment of wonderful brightness and intensity. Travellers in 
the countries of the Indian Ocean and parts of the Pacific know 
it well, as the paint that colours the lips and tongues of the 


" Red paint, red paint of the udawada fish ! Red paint, 
red paint, of the mwaylili fish ! At the one end of the 
aromatic pandanus flower-petal ; at the other end of the 
Duwaku flower. There are two red paints of mine, they 
flare up, they flash. 1 ' 

" My head, it flares up, it flashes ; my red paint, it 
flares up, it flashes, 

My facial blacking, it flares up, it flashes ; 

My aromatic paint, it flares up, it flashes ; 

My little basket, it flares up, it flashes ; 

My lime spoon, it flares up, it flashes ; 

My lime pot, it flares up, it flashes ; 

My comb, it flares up, it flashes." 

And so on, enumerating the various personal appurten- 
ances, such as the mat, the stock-in-trade, the big basket, 
the charmed bundle (lilava) and then again the various 
parts of his head, that is his nose, his occiput, his tongue, 
his throat, his larynx, his eyes, and his mouth. The whole 
series of words is again repeated with another leading 
word instead of "it flares up, it flashes." The new 
word, ' mitapwaypwa'i ' is a compound, expressing a desire, 
a coveting, nascent in the eyes. The eyes are, according 
to native psycho-physical theories, the seat of admiration, 
wish and appetite in matters of sex, of greed for food, and 
for material possessions. Here, this expression conveys 
that the Dobuan partner, will, on beholding his visitor, 
desire to make Kula with him. 

The spell ends : " My head is made bright, my face 
flashes. I have acquired a beautiful shape, like that of a 
chief ; I have acquired a shape that is good. I am the only 
one ; my renown stands alone." 

At the beginning we have again the mention of two 
fishes ; evidently the redness of the fish is the right redness for 
the Kula ! I am unable to explain the meaning of the second 
sentence, except that the petals of the pandanus flower are 
slightly coloured at one end, and that they are considered as 


one of the finest and most attractive ornaments. The middle 
part and the end of this spell need no commentary. 

These two spells will be sufficient to indicate the general 
character of the beauty magic of the Kula. One more spell 
must be adduced here, that of the conch shell. This shell is 
as a rule medicated at this stage of the Kula proceedings. 
Sometimes, however, the toliwaga would, before departure 
from home, utter the formula into the opening of the conch 
shell, and close this up carefully, so that the virtue might not 
evaporate The conch shell is made of a big specimen of the 
Cassis cornuta shell, at the broad end of which the apex of the 
spiral windings is knocked out, so as to form a mouth-piece. 
The spell is not uttered into the mouthpiece, but into the broad 
opening between the lips, both orifices being afterwards closed 
with coco-nut husk fibre until the shell has actually to be 


" Mwanita, Mwanita \ Come there together ; I will 
make you come there together ! Come here together ; 
I will make you come here together ! The rainbow appears 
there ; I will make the rainbow appear there ! The 
rainbow appears here ; I will make the rainbow here." 

" Who comes ahead with the Kula ? I " (here the 
name of the reciter is uttered), " come ahead with the Kula, 
I shall be the only chief ; I shall be the only old man ; 
I shall be the only one to meet my partner on the road. 
My renown stands alone ; my name is the only one. 
Beautiful valuables are exchanged here with my partner ; 
Beautiful valuables are exchanged there with my partner ; 
The contents of my partner's basket are mustered." 

After this exordium there comes a middle part, con- 
structed on the general principle of one word's being 
repeated with a series of others. The keyword here is an 
expression denoting the state of excitement which seizes 
a partner, and makes him give generous Kula offerings. 
This word here is repeated first with a series of words, 
describing the various personal belongings of the partner, 
his dog, his belt ; his tabooed coco-nut and betel-nut ; and 
then, with a new series of terms denoting the different 
classes of Kula valuables which are expected to be given. 
This part could therefore be translated thus : 

" A state of excitement seizes his dog, his belt, his 
gwara " (taboo on coco-nuts and betel-nuts) "hisbagido'u 


necklace, his bagiriku necklace, his bagidudu necklace, 
etc. 1 ' The spell ends in a typical manner : "I shall 
kula, I shall rob my Kula ; I shall steal my Kula ; I 
shall pilfer my Kula. I shall kula so as to make my 
canoe sink ; I shall kula so as to make my outrigger 
go under. My fame is like thunder, my steps are like 
earthquake ! " 

The first word of this spell, mwanita, is the native name for 
a long worm covered with rings of black armour. I was told 
that it is mentioned here because of its similarity to the 
spondylus shell necklaces, which also consist of many rings. I 
obtained this formula in Sinaketa, hence this interpretation 
heeds only the necklaces, though the simile might also obviously 
be extended to armshells, for a number of armshells threaded 
on a string, as they can be seen on Plate LX, presents also a 
likeness to the mwanita worm. It may be added here that 
Sinaketa is one of these Kula communities in which the 
overseas expeditions are done only in one direction, to the 
South, from where only the spondylus necklaces are fetched. 
Its counterpart, Kiriwina, to the North, carries on again only 
one-sided overseas Kula. The formulae which I obtained in 
Kiriwina differ from those of Sinaketa in their main parts : 
whenever there is a list of spondylus necklaces in a Sinaketan 
tapwana (main part) a list of the several varieties of armshells 
would be used in a Kiriwinian tapwana. In Kitava, where, 
as in several other Kula communities, the overseas expeditions 
are carried out in both directions, the same formula would be 
used by the same man with two different main parts, according 
as to whether he was sailing East to fetch mwali, or West to 
fetch soulava. No changes, however, would be made in the 
beginning of a spell. 

The sentence ' come here together ' refers to the collected 
valuables. The play on ' there * and ' here/ represented in 
the native language by the sounds ' m ' and ' w/ which are 
used as interchangeable formatives, is very frequent in magic ; 
(see Chapter XVIII, Division XII). The rainbow here 
invoked is a kariyala (magical portent) of this formula. When 
the conch shell is blown, and the fleet approaches the shore, a 
rainbow will appear in the skies. 

The rest of the exordium is taken up by the usual boasts and 
exaggerations typical of magic, The middle part needs no 


commentary. It is clear that the sound of the conch shell is 
meant to arouse the partner to do his duty eagerly. The magic 
spoken into the conch shell heightens and strengthens this 


After the beauty magic and the spell over the conch 
shell are finished and the whole performance does not take 
more than half an hour or so every man, in full festive array, 
takes his place in his canoe. The sails have been folded and the 
masts removed, and the final stage is done by paddling. The 
canoes close in, not in any very regular formation, but keeping 
near to one another, the canoe of the loli'uvalaku as a rule 
moving in the van. In each canoe, the toliwaga sits at his 
proper place in the middle of the canoe near the gebobo (special 
erection made for cargo). One man sits in the front, right 
against the prow-board, and another at the stern on the 
platform. All the remaining members of the canoe wield the 
paddles, while the small boy or the junior member of the crew, 
sits near the front, ready to blow the conch shell. The oarsmen 
swing their leaf-shaped paddles with long, energetic and 
swift strokes, letting the water spray off them and the glistening 
blades flash in the sunlight a ceremonial stroke which they 
call kavikavila (lightening). 

As the canoes begin to move, the three men, so far idle, 
intone a chant, reciting a special magical formula, each a 
different one. The man in the front, holding his hand on the 
tabuyo (oval prow-board), recites a spell, called kayikuna 
tabuyo (the swaying of the prow-board). The toliwaga in the 
middle recites the powerful formula called kavalikuliku (the 
earthquake spell), a formula which makes " the mountain 
tremble and subside." The man at the stern recites what is 
called kaytavilena moynawaga, a name which I cannot very 
well explain, which literally means, " the changing of the canoe 
entrance." Thus, laden with magical force, which is poured 
forth irresistibly on to the mountain, the canoes advance 
towards the goal of their enterprise. With the voices of the 
reciters mingle the soft, penetrating sounds of the conch shell, 
blending their various pitches into a weird, disturbing harmony. 
Samples of the three spells must be given here. 



" Moruborogu, Mosilava'u ! " 

" Fish -hawk, fall on thy prey, catch it. 
My prow-board, fish-hawk, fall on thy prey, catch it " 

This key expression, the invocation of the fish-hawk, is 
repeated with a string of words, denoting, first, the orna- 
mental parts of the canoe ; afterwards, certain of its 
constructive parts ; and finally, the lime-pot, the lime stick 
the comb, the paddles, the mats, the lilava (magical 
bundle), and the usagelu (members of the crew). The spell 
ends with the words : 

" I shall kula t I shall rob my Kula, etc./' as in the 
previously given formula of the conch shell. 

The first two words of this spell are personal names of men, 
as the initial syllable Mo- indicates, but no information about 
them was available. The allusion to the fish-hawk in the main 
part suggests a connection between the action of the rite, that 
is, the moving of the tabuyo, with this part of the spell, for the 
ornamental prow-boards are called synonymously buribwari 
(fish-hawk). On the other hand, the expression : " Fish-hawk, 
fall on thy prey," is no doubt also a magical simile, expressing 
the idea : " As a fish-hawk falls on his prey and carries it off, 
so let this canoe fall on the Kula valuables and carry them off." 
The association of this simile with the act of shaking the prow- 
boards is very suggestive. It may be an attempt to assimilate 
the whole canoe and all its parts to a fish-hawk falling on its 
prey, through the special mediation of the ornamental prow- 

The spell recited by the toliwaga in the middle of the canoe 
runs thus : 


" I anchor at the open sea beach, my renown reaches 
the Lagoon ; I anchor at the Lagoon, my renown reaches 
the open sea beach/' 

"I hit the mountain ; the mountain shivers ; the 
mountain subsides ; the mountain trembles ; the mountain 
falls down ; the mountain falls asunder. I kick the ground 
on which the mountain stands. I bring together, I 

" The mountain is encountered in the Kula ; we en- 
counter the mountain in the Kula." 

The expression, kubara, takuba, kubara, which we have 
here translated by " the mountain is met in the Kula, etc." 


is then repeated with a long string of words denoting the 
various classes of valuables to be received in the Kula. 
It ends with the conclusion already quoted : " My 
renown is like thunder, my steps are like earthquake." 

The opening two sentences are clear ; they contain a typical 
magical exaggeration, and equally typical permutation of 
words. Then comes the terrible verbal onslaught on " the 
mountain/' in which the dreadful upheaval is carried on in 
words. " The mountain " (koya) stands here for the com- 
munity of partners, for the partner, for his mind. It was very 
difficult to translate the expression kubara, takuba kubara. It 
is evidently an archaic word, and I have found it in several 
formula of the mwasila. It seems to mean something like an 
encounter between the approaching fleet and the koya. The 
word for sea battle is kubilia in the Trobriand language, and 
kubara in that of the Amphletts and Dobu, and as often the 
words of the partner's language are mixed up into these 
formulae, this etymology and translation seem to be the correct 

The third formula, that of the man in the stern, is as 
follows : 


" Crocodile, fall down, take thy man ! push him down 
under the gebobo ! (part of the canoe where the cargo is 
stowed away)/' 

" Crocodile, bring me the necklace, bring me the 
bagido'u, etc." 

The formula is ended by the usual phrase : "I shall 
kula, I shall rob my Kula, etc.," as in the two previously 
quoted spells (TA'UYO and KAYIKUNA TABUYQ). 

This formula is obviously a pendant to the first of these 
three spells, and the crocodile is here invoked instead of the 
fish hawk, with the same significance. The rest of the spell is 
clear, the crocodile being appealed to, to bring all the different 
classes of the spondylus shell valuables. 

It is interesting to reflect upon the psychological importance 
of this magic. There is a deep belief in its efficiency, a belief 
cherished not only by those who advance chanting it, but shared 
also by the men awaiting the visitors on the shore. The 
Dobuans know that powerful forces are at work upon them. 


They must feel the wave of magical influence slowly advancing, 
spreading over their villages. They hear the appeal of the 
conch-shell, wafting the magic to them in its irresistible note. 
They can guess the murmur of the many voices accompanying 
it. They know what is expected from them, and they rise to 
the occasion. On the part of the approaching party, this 
magic, the chant of the many voices blended with the ta'uyo 
(conch shell), expresses their hopes and desires and their rising 
excitement ; their attempt to " shake the mountain," to stir 
it to its very foundations. 

At the same time, a new emotion arises in their minds, that 
of awe and apprehension ; and another form of magic has to 
come to their assistance at this juncture, to give expression to 
this fear and to assuage it the magic of safety. Spells of 
this magic have been spoken previously, perhaps on the beach of 
Sarubwoyna alongside with the rest, perhaps even earlier, at 
one of the intermediate stages of the journey. But the rite 
will be performed at the moment of setting foot ashore, and 
as this is also the psychological moment to which the magic 
corresponds, it must be described here. 

It seems absurd, from the rational point of view, that the 
natives, who know that they are expected, indeed, who have 
been invited to come, should yet feel uncertain about the good 
will of their partners, with whom they have so often traded, 
whom they have received in visit, and themselves visited and 
re-visited again and again. Coming on a customary and peace- 
ful errand, why should they have any apprehensions of danger, 
and develop a special magical apparatus to meet the natives of 
Dobu ? This is a logical way of reasoning, but custom is not 
logical, and the emotional attitude of man has a greater sway 
over custom than has reason. The main attitude of a native to 
other, alien groups is that of hostility and mistrust. The fact 
that to a native every stranger is an enemy, is an ethnographic 
feature reported from all parts of the world. The Trobriander 
is not an exception in this respect, and beyond his own, narrow 
social horizon, a wall of suspicion, misunderstanding and latent 
enmity divides him from even near neighbours. The Kula 
breaks it through at definite geographical points, and by means 
of special customary transactions. But, like everything 
extraordinary and exceptional, this waiving of the general 
taboo on strangers must be justified and bridged over by magic. 


Indeed, the customary behaviour of the Dobuans and of the 
visitors expresses this state of affairs with singular accuracy. 
It is the customary rule that the Trobrianders should be 
received first with a show of hostility and fierceness ; treated 
almost as intruders. But this attitude entirely subsides after 
the visitors have ritually spat over the village on their arrival. 
The natives express their ideas on this subject very character- 
istically : 

" The Dobu man is not good as we are. He is fierce, he 
is a man-eater ! When we come to Dobu, we fear him, he 
might kill us. But see ! I spit the charmed ginger root, 
and their mind turns. They lay down their spears, they 
receive us well." 


This show of Hostility is fixed into a definite ceremonial 
attitude when the Dobu an village, which consists of a collection 
of hamlets, has been laid under a taboo. On the death of a 
man of importance in any of the hamlets, the whole community 
undergoes the so called gwara taboo. The coco-nut and betel - 
nut palms around and within the village are not allowed to be 
scaled, and the fruit must not be touched by the Dobuans 
themselves, and still less by strangers. This state of affairs 
lasts a varying length of time, according to the importance 
of the dead man, and to other circumstances. Only after the 
gwara has run out its course, and is ripe for expiring, do the 
Kiriwinians dare to come on a visit to Dobu, having been 
advised beforehand of the circumstance. But then, when they 
arrive, the Dobuans put up a show of real hostility, for the 
visitors will have to break the taboo, they will have to scale 
the palms, and take the forbidden fruit. This is in accordance 
with a wide-spread Papuo-Melanesian type of custom of 
finishing tabooed periods : in all cases, someone else, who is not 
under the taboo, has to put an end to it, or to force the imposer 
of the taboo to break it. And in all cases, there is some show 
of violence and struggle on the part of the one who has to allow 
it to be broken. In this case, as the Kiriwinian natives put it : 

" Supposing we do not perform the ka'ubana'i (safety 
magic), we are afraid, when there is a gwara in Dobu, 
The Dobuans put on war paint, take spear in hand, and a 


puluta (sword club) ; they sit and look at us. We run into 
the village ; we climb the tree. He runs at us ' Don't 
climb/ he cries. Then we spit leyya (ginger root) at him. 
He throws down his spear, he goes back and smiles. The 
women take the spears away. We spit all around the 
village. Then he is pleased. He speaks : ' You climb 
your coco-nut, your betel-nut ; cut your bananas/ " 

Thus the taboo is broken, the gwara is finished, and the 
customary and histrionic moment of tension is over, which 
must have been none the less a strain on the nerves of both 

This is the lengthy formula which a toliwaga utters over 
several bits of ginger root, which are afterwards distributed 
among his crew, each of whom carries a piece when getting 


" Floating spirit of Nikiniki ! 
Duduba, Kirakira." (These words are untranslatable). 

" It ebbs, it ebbs away ! 
Thy fury ebbs, it ebbs away, O man of Dobu ! 
Thy war paint ebbs, it ebbs away, O man of Dobu ! 
Thy sting ebbs, it ebbs away, O man of Dobu ! 
Thy anger ebbs, it ebbs away, O man of Dobu ! 
Thy chasing away ebbs, it ebbs away, O man of Dobu ! " 

A long string of various expressings denoting hostile 
passions, disinclination to make Kula, and all the para- 
phernalia of war are here enumerated. Thus, such 
words as " Kula refusal/' " growling/' " sulking/' 
" dislike " ; further : " weapon," " bamboo knife," 
" club-sword," " large-barbed spear," " small-barbed 
spear," " round club," " war blackening," " red war paint," 
are uttered one after the other. Moreover, all of them are 
repeated in their Dobuan equivalents after the list has been 
exhausted in Kiriwinian. When this series has been 
exhausted with reference to the man of Dobu, part of it is 
repeated with the addition " Woman of Dobu," the 
mention of weapons, however, being omitted. But this 
does not end this extremely long formula. After the 
protracted litany has been finished, the reciter chants : 

" Who emerges at the top of Kinana ? I " (here the 
name of the reciter is mentioned) " emerge on the top of 

Then the whole litany is again repeated, the key word, 
instead of, " it ebbs, it ebbs away " being " the dog sniffs." 


In connection with all the other words, this would run, 
more or less, in a free translation : 

" Thy fury, O man of Dobu, is as when the dog sniffs/' 
or, more explicitly : 

" Thy fury, O man of Dobu, should abate as the fury of a 
dog abates when it comes and sniffs at a new-comer/' 

The simile of the dog must be very strongly ingrained 
in the magical tradition, for in two more versions of this 
formula, obtained from different informants, I received 
as key- words the expressions : " The dog plays about/' 
and " The dog is docile/.' The final part of this formula 
is identical with that of the Kaykakaya spell previously 
given in this chapter : 

" No more it is my mother, my mother art thou, O 
woman of Dobu, etc.," running into the ending "'Recently 
deceased, etc." 

In comment on this formula, there is first of all the name 
mentioned in the first line, that of Nikiniki, or Monikiniki, as 
it is usually pronounced, with the prefix of masculinity, mo-. 
He is described as " A man, an ancient man ; no myth about 
him ; he spoke the magic." Indeed, the main system of 
mwasila magic is named after him, but none of my informants 
knew any legend about him. 

The first key word of the middle part is quite clear. It 
describes the ebbing away of the Dobuans' passions and of 
their outward trappings. It is noteworthy that the word for 
' ebbing ' here used, is in the Dobuan, and not in the Kiriwinian 
language. The reference to the dog already explained may be 
still made clearer in terms of native comment. One explanation 
is simple : 

" They invoke the dog in the mwasila, because when 
master of dog comes, the dog stands up and licks ; in the 
same way, the inclinations of the Dobu people." Another 
explanation is more sophisticated : " The reason is that 
dogs play about nose to nose. Supposing we mentioned 
the word, as it was of old arranged, the valuables do 
the same. Supposing we had given away armshells, the 
necklace will come, they will meet." 

This means, by invoking the dog in this magic, according to 
old magical tradition, we also influence the Kula gifts. This 
explanation is undoubtedly far-fetched, and probably does not 
express the real meaning of the spell. It would have no 


meaning in association with the list of passions and weapons, 
but I have adduced it as an example of native scholasticism. 

The dog is also a taboo associated with this magic. When a 
man, who practices the ka'ubana'i eats and a dog howls within 
his hearing, he has to leave his food, else his magic would 
' blunt/ 

Safe under the auspices of this magic, the Trobriand 
sailors land on the beach of Tu'utauna, where we shall follow 
them in the next chapter. 




IN the last chapter, we spoke about the institution of gwara 
(mortuary taboo) and of the threatening reception accorded to 
the visiting party, at the time when it is laid upon the village, 
and when it has to be lifted. When there is no gwara, and the 
arriving fleet are on an uvalaku expedition, there will be a big 
and ceremonial welcome. The canoes, as they approach, will 
range themselves in a long row facing the shore. The point 
selected will be the beach, corresponding to a hamlet where the 
main partner of the toli'uvalaku lives. The canoe of the 
toli'uvalaku, of the master of the uvalaku expedition, will range 
itself at the end of the row. The toli'uvalaku will get up on to 
the platform and harangue the natives assembled on the beach. 
He will try to appeal to their ambition, so that they might give 
the visitors a large amount of valuables and surpass all other 
occasions. After that, his partner on the shore will blow a 
conch-shell, and, wading through the water, advance towards 
the canoe, and offer the first gift of valuables to the master of 
the expedition. This may be followed by another gift, again 
given to the toli'uvalaku. Other blasts then follow, and men 
disengage themselves from the throng on the shore, approaching 
the canoes with necklaces for their partners. A certain 
order of seniority will be observed in this. The necklaces are 
always carried ceremonially ; as a rule they will be tied by both 
ends to a stick, and carried hanging down, with the pendant at 
the bottom (see Plate LXI). Sometimes, when a vaygu'a 
(valuable) is carried to the canoes by a woman (a headman's 
wife or sister) it will be put into a basket and carried on 
her head. 




After this ceremonial reception, the fleet disperses. As we 
remember from Chapter II, the villages in Dobu are not built 
in compact blocks of houses, but scattered in hamlets, each of 
about a dozen huts. The fleet now sails along the shore, every 
canoe anchoring in front of the hamlet in which its toliwaga 
has his main partner. 

We have at last arrived at the point when the real Kula has 
begun. So far, it was all preparations, and sailing with its 
concomitant adventure, and a little bit of preliminary Kula in 
the Amphletts. It was all full of excitement and emotion, 
pointing always towards the final goal, the big Kula in Dobu. 
Now we have at last reached the climax. The net result will 
be the acquisition of a few dirty, greasy, and insignificant 
looking native trinkets, each of them a string of flat, partly 
discoloured, partly raspberry-pink or brick-red discs, threaded 
one behind the other into a long, cylindrical roll. In the eyes 
of the natives, however, this result receives its meaning from 
the social forces of tradition and custom, which give the 
imprint of value to these objects, and surround them with a 
halo of romance. It seems fit here to make these few reflections 
upon the native psychology on this point, and to attempt to 
grasp its real significance. 

It may help us towards this understanding to reflect, that 
not far from the scenes of the Kula, large numbers of white 
adventurers have toiled and suffered, and many of them given 
their lives, in order to acquire what to the natives would appear 
as insignificant and filthy as their bagi are to us a few nuggets 
of gold. Nearer, even, in the very Trobriand Lagoon, there 
are found valuable pearls. In olden days, when the natives on 
opening a shell to eat it, found a waytuna, as they called it, a 
' seed ' of the pearl shell, they would throw it to their children 
to play with. Now they see a number of white men straining 
all their forces in competition to acquire as many of these 
worthless things as they can. The parallel is very close. In 
both cases, the conventionalised value attached to an object 
carries with it power, renown, and the pleasure of increasing 
them both. In the case of the white man, this is infinitely more 
complex and indirect, but not essentially different from 
that of the natives. If we would imagine that a great number 
of celebrated gems are let loose among us, and travel from hand 


to hand that Koh-i-noor and Orloff and other celebrated 
diamonds, emeralds and rubies were on a continuous round 
tour, and to be obtained through luck, daring and enterprise, 
we would have a still closer analogy. Even though the posses- 
sion of them would be a short and temporary one, the renown 
of having possessed them and the mania of ' collectioneering ' 
would add its spur to the lust for wealth. 

This general, human, psychological foundation of the Kula 
must be kept constantly in mind. If we want, however, to 
understand its specific forms, we have to look for the details 
and technicalities of the transaction. A short outline of these 
has been given before in Chapter III. Here, after we have 
acquired a better knowledge of preliminaries, and a more 
thorough grasp of native psychology and custom, we shall be. 
more ready to enter into a detailed description. 

The main principle of the Kula exchange has been laid 
down in the before-mentioned chapter ; the Kula exchange 
has always to be a gift, followed by a counter-gift ; it can never 
be a barter, a direct exchange with assessment of equivalents 
and with haggling. There must be always in the Kula two 
transactions, distinct in name, in nature and in time. The 
exchange is opened 'by an initial or opening gift called vaga, and 
closed by a final or return present called yotile. They are both 
ceremonial gifts, they have to be accompanied by the blow of a 
conch shell, and the present is given ostentatiously and in 
public. The native term " to throw " a valuable describes well 
the nature of the act. For, though the valuable has to be 
handed over by the giver, the receiver hardly takes any notice 
of it, and seldom receives it actually into his hands. The 
etiquette of the transaction requires that the gift should be 
given in an off-hand, abrupt, almost angry manner, and received 
with equivalent nochalance and disdain. A slight modification 
in this is introduced when, as it happens sometimes, in the 
Trobriands, and in the Trobriands only, the vaygu'a is given by 
a chief to a commoner, in which case the commoner would take 
it into his hand, and show some appreciation of it. In all 
other cases, the valuable would be placed within the reach of the 
receiver, and an insignificant member of his following would 
pick it up. 

It is not very easy to unravel the various motives which 
combine to make up this customary behaviour on receiving and 


giving a gift. The part played by the receiver is perhaps not 
so difficult to interpret. Right through their ceremonial and 
commercial give and take, there runs the crude and funda- 
mental human dissatisfaction with the value received. A native 
will always, when speaking about a transaction, insist on the 
magnitude and value of the gift he gave, and minimise those of 
the equivalent accepted. Side by side with this, there is the 
essential native reluctance to appear in want of anything, a 
reluctance which is most pronounced in the case of food, as we 
have said before (Chapter VI, Division IV). Both these 
motives combine to produce the, after all, very human and 
understandable attitude of disdain at the reception of a gift. 
In the case of the donor, the histrionic anger with which he 
gives an object might be, in the first place, a direct expression 
of the natural human dislike of parting with a possession. 
Added to this, there is the attempt to enhance the apparent 
value of the gift by showing what a wrench it is to give it away. 
This is the interpretation of the etiquette in giving and taking 
at which I have arrived after many observations of native 
behaviour, and through many conversations and casual remarks 
of the natives. 

The two gifts of the Kula are also distinct in time. It is 
quite obvious this must be so in the case of an overseas expedi- 
tion of an uvalaku type, on which no valuables whatever are 
taken with them by the visiting party, and so, any valuable 
received on such an occasion, whether as vaga or yotile, cannot 
therefore be exchanged at the same time. But even when the 
exchange takes place in the same village during an inland 
Kula, there must be an interval between the two gifts, of a few 
minutes at least. 

There are also deep differences in the nature of the two 
gifts. The vaga, as the opening gift of the exchange, has to 
be given spontaneously, that is, there is no enforcement of any 
duty in giving it. There are means of soliciting it, (wawoyla), 
but no pressure can be employed. The yotile, however, that is, 
the valuable which is given in return for the valuable previously 
received, is given under pressure of a certain obligation. If I 
have given a vaga (opening gift of valuable) to a partner of 
mine, let us say a year ago, and now, when on a visit, I find 
that he has an equivalent vaygu'a, I shall consider it his duty 
to give it to me. If he does not do so, I am angry with him, 


and justified in being so. Not only that, if I can by any chance 
lay my hand on his vaygu'a and carry if off by force (lebu), I am 
entitled by custom to do this, although my partner in that case 
may become very irate. The quarrel over that would again be 
half histrionic, half real. 

Another difference between a vaga and a yotile occurs in 
overseas expeditions which are not uvalaku. On such, expe- 
ditions, valuables sometimes are carried, but only such as are 
due already for a past vaga, and are to be given as yotile. 
Opening gifts, vaga, are never taken overseas. 

As mentioned above, the vaga, entails more wooing or 
soliciting than the yotile. This process, called by the natives 
wawoyla, consists, among others of a series of solicitary gifts. 
One type of such gifts is called pokala, and consists of food.* 
In the myth of Kasabwaybwayreta, narrated in Chapter XII, 
this type of gift was mentioned. As a rule, a considerable 
amount of food is taken on an expedition, and when a good 
valuable is known to be in the possession of a man, some of this 
food will be presented to him, with the words : "I pokala your 
valuable ; give it to me/ 1 If the owner is not inclined to part 
with his valuable, he will not accept the pokala. If accepted, 
it is an intimation that the vaygu'a will sooner or later be given 
to the man who offers the pokala. The owner, however, may 
not be prepared to part with it at once, and may wish to 
receive more solicitary gifts. 

Another type of such a gift is called kaributu, and consists 
of a valuable which, as a rule, is not one of those which are 
regularly kulaed. Thus, a small polished axe blade, or a 
valuable belt is given with the words : "I kaributu your neck- 
lace (or armshells) ; I shall take it and carry it off " This 
gift again may only be accepted if there is an intention to 
satisfy the giver with the desired vaygu'a. A very famous and 
great valuable will often be solicited by gift of pokala and of 
kaributu, one following the other. If, after one or two of such 
solicitory gifts, the big vaygu'a is finally given, the satisfied 
receiver will often give some more food to his partner, which 
gift is called kwaypolu. 

The food gifts would be returned on a similar occasion if 
it arises. But there would be no strict equivalence in the 

* It will be noted, that this is the third meaning in which the term pokala 
is used by the natives. (Cf. Chapter VI, Division VI.) 


matter of food. The kaributii gift of a valuable, however, 
would always have to be returned later on, in an equivalent 
form. It may be added that the pokala offerings of food would 
be most often given from a district, where food is more 
abundant than in the district to which it is carried. Thus, 
the Sinaketans would bring pokala to the Amphletts, but they 
would seldom or never pokala the Dobuans, who are very rich 
in food. Again, within the Trobriands, a pokala would be 
offered from the Northern agricultural district of Kiriwina to 
men of Sinaketa, but not inversely. 

Another peculiar type of gift connected with the Kula is 
called korotomna. After a Sinaketan has given a necklace to 
a man of Kiriwina, and this latter receives a minor valuable 
from his partner further East, this minor valuable will be given 
to the Sinaketan as the korotomna of his necklace. This gift 
usually consists of a lime spatula of whalebone ornamented 
with spondylus discs, and it has to be repaid. 

It must be noted that all these expressions are given in the 
language of the Trobriands, and they refer to the gifts exchanged 
between the Northern and Southern Trobriands on the one 
hand, and these latter and the Amphletts on the other. In an 
overseas expedition from Sinaketa to Dobu, the solicitary 
gifts would be rather given wholesale, as the visitors 1 gifts of 
pari, and the subtle distinctions in name and in technicality 
would not be observed. That this must be so becomes clear, if 
we realise that, whereas, between the Northern and Southern 
Trobriands the news about an exceptionally good valuable 
spreads easily and quickly, this is not the case between Dobu 
and Boyowa. Going over to Dobu, therefore, a man has to 
make up his mind, whether he will give any solicitory presents 
to his partner, what and how much he will give him, without 
knowing whether he has any specially fine valuables to expect 
from him or not. If, however, there was any exceptionally 
valuable gift in the visitors' pari, it will have to be returned 
later on by the Dobuans. 

Another important type of gift essential to the Kula is that 
of the intermediary gifts, called basi. Let us imagine that a 
Sinaketan man has given a very fine pair of armshells to his 
Dobuan partner at their last meeting in Sinaketa. Now, 
arriving in Dobu, he finds that his partner has not got any 
necklace equivalent in value to the armshells given. He none 


the less will expect his partner to give him meanwhile a neck- 
lace, even though it be of inferior value. Such a gift is a basi, 
that is, not a return of the highly valuable vaga, but a gift given 
to fill in the gap. This basi will have to be repaid by a small 
equivalent pair of armshells at a later date. And the Dobuan 
on his side has still to repay the big armshells he received, and 
for which he has as yet got no equivalent in his possession.* As 
soon as this is obtained, it will be given, and will close the trans- 
action as a clinching gift, or kudu. Both these names imply 
figures of speech. Kudu means ' tooth,' and is a good name 
for a gift which clinches or bites. Basi means to pierce, or to 
stab, and this is the literal translation of a native comment on 
this name : 

" We say basi, for it does not truly bite, like a kudu 
(tooth) ; it just basi (pierces) the surface ; makes it 

The equivalence of the two gifts, vaga zndyotile, is expressed 
by the word kudu (tooth) and bigeda (it will bite). Another 
figure of speech describing the equivalence is contained in the 
word va'i, to marry. When two of the opposite valuables 
meet in the Kula and are exchanged, it is said that these two 
have married. The armshells are conceived as a female prin- 
ciple, and the necklaces as the male. An interesting comment 
on these ideas was given to me by one of the informants. As 
mentioned above, a gift of food is never given from Sinaketa 
to Kiriwina, obviously because it would be a case of bringing 
coals to Newcastle. When I asked why this is so, I received 
the answer : 

" We do not now kwaypolu or pokala the mwali, for they 
are women, and there is no reason to kwaypolu or pokala 

There is little logic in this comment, but it evidently 
includes some idea about the smaller value of the female 
principle. Or else perhaps it refers to the fundamental idea of 
the married status, namely that it is for the woman's family 
to provide the man with food. 

The idea of equivalence in the Kula transaction is very 
strong and definite, and when the receiver is not satisfied with 
the yotile (return gift) he will violently complain that it is not a 


proper ' tooth ' (kudu) for his opening gift, that it is not a real 
' marriage/ that it is not properly ' bitten/ 

These terms, given in the Kiriwinian language, cover about 
half of the Kula ring from Woodlark Island and even further 
East, from Nada (Loughlan Islands) as far as the Southern 
Trobriands. In the language of Dobu, the same word is used 
for vaga and basi, while yotile is pronounced yotura, and kudu is 
udu. The same terms are used in the Amphletts. 

So much about the actual regulations of the Kula transac- 
tions. With regard to the further general rules, the definition 
of Kula partnership and sociology has been discussed in detail 
in Chapter XL As to the rule that the valuables have always 
to travel and never to stop, nothing has to be added to what 
has been said about this in Chapter III, for there are no 
exceptions to this rule. A few more words must be said on the 
subject of the valuables used in the Kula. I said in Chapter 
III, stating the case briefly, that in one direction travel the 
armshells, whilst in the opposite, following the hands of the 
clock, travel the necklaces. It must now be added that the 
mwali armshells are accompanied by another article, the 
doga, or circular boar's tusks. In olden days, the doga were 
almost as important as the mwali in the stream of the Kula. 
Nowadays, hardly any at all are to be met as Kula articles. It 
is not easy to explain the reason for this change. In an institu- 
tion having the importance and traditional tenacity which we 
find in the Kula, there can be no question of the interference 
of fashion to bring about changes. The only reason which I can 
suggest is that nowadays, with immensely increased inter- 
tribal intercourse, there is a great drainage on all Kula 
valuables by other districts lying outside the Kula. Now, on 
the one hand the doga are extremely valued on the main-land of 
New Guinea, much more, I assume, than they are within the 
Kula district. The drainage therefore would affect the doga 
much more strongly than any other articles, one of which, 
the spondylus necklaces, are actually imported into the Kula 
region from without, and even manufactured by white men in 
considerable quantities for native consumption. The armshells 
are produced within the district in sufficient numbers to replace 
any leakage, but doga are extremely difficult to reproduce as 
they are connected with a rare freak of nature a boar with a 
circular tusk. 


One more article which travels in the same direction as the 
mwali, consists of the bosu, the big lime spatulae made of 
whale-bone and decorated with spondylus shells. They are not 
strictly speaking Kula articles, but play a part as the korotomna 
gifts mentioned above and nowadays are hardly to be met with. 
With the necklaces, there travel only as an unimportant sub- 
sidiary Kula article, belts made of the same red spondylus shell. 
They would be given as return presents for small armshells, as 
basi, etc. 

There is one important exception in the respective move- 
ments of necklace and armshell. A certain type of spondylus 
shell strings, much bigger and coarser than the strings which are 
used in the Kula, are produced in Sinaketa, as we saw in the 
last Chapter. These strings, called katudababile in Kiriwinian, 
or sama'upa in Dobuan, are sometimes exported from Sinaketa 
to Dobu as Kula gifts, and function therefore as armshells. 
These katudababile, however, never complete the Kula ring, in 
the wrong direction, as they never return to the Trobriands 
from the East. Part of them are absorbed into the districts 
outside the Kula, part of them come back again to Sinaketa, 
and join the other necklaces in their circular movement. 

Another class of articles, which often take a subsidiary part 
in the Kula exchange, consists of the large and thin polished 
axe blades, called in the Kiriwinian language beku. They 
are never used for any practical purposes, and fulfil only the 
function of tokens of wealth and objects of parade. In the 
Kula they would be given as kaributu (solicitary gifts), and 
would go both ways. As they are quarried in Woodlark 
Island and polished in Kinwina, they would, however, move 
in the direction from the Trobriands to Dobu more frequently 
than in the opposite one. 

To summarise this subject, it may be said that the proper 
Kula articles are on the one hand, the armshells (mwali), and 
the curved tusks (doga) ; and, on the other hand, the fine, long 
necklaces (soulava or bagi), of which there are many sub-classes. 
An index of the special position of these three articles is that 
they are the only ones, or at least, by far the most important 
ones, mentioned in the spells. Later on, I shall enumerate all 
the sub-classes and varieties of these articles. 

Although, as we have seen, there is both a good deal of 
ceremony attached to the transaction and a good deal of 


decorum, one might even say commercial honour, implied in 
the technicalities of the exchange, there is much room left as 
well for quarrelling and friction. If a man obtains a very fine 
valuable, which he is not already under an obligation to offer as 
yotile (return payment), there will be a number of his partners, 
who will compete to receive it. As only one can be successful, 
all the others will be thwarted and more or less offended and full 
of malice. Still more room for bad blood is left in the matter 
of equivalence. As the valuables exchanged cannot be 
measured or even compared with one another by an exact 
standard ; as there are no definite correspondences or indices 
of correlation between the various kinds of the valuables, it is 
not easy to satisfy a man who has given a vaygu'a of high 
value. On receiving a repayment (yotile), which he does not 
consider equivalent, he will not actually make a scene about 
it, or even show his displeasure openly in the act. But he will 
feel a deep resentment, which will express itself in frequent 
recriminations and abuse. These, though not made to his 
partner's face, will reach his ears sooner or later. Eventually, 
the universal method of settling differences may be resorted 
to that of black magic, and a sorcerer will be paid to cast some 
evil spell over the offending party. 

When speaking about some celebrated vaygu'a, a native 
will praise its value in the words : " Many men died because of 
it " which does not mean that they died in battle or fight, but 
were killed by black magic. Again, there is a system of signs 
by which one can recognise, on inspecting the corpse the day 
after death, for what reasons it has been bewitched. Among 
these signs there are one or two which mean that the man has 
been done away with, because of his success in Kula, or because 
he has offended somebody in connection with it. The mixture 
of punctilio and decorum, on the one hand, with passionate 
resentment and greed on the other, must be realised as under- 
lying all the transactions, and giving the leading psychological 
tone to the natives' interest. The obligation of fairness and 
decency is based on the general rule, that it is highly improper 
and dishonourable to be mean. Thus, though a man will 
generally strive to belittle the thing received, it must not be 
forgotten that the man who gave it was genuinely eager to do 
his best. And after all, in some cases when a man receives a 
really fine valuable, he will boast of it and be frankly satisfied. 


Such a success is attributed of course not to his partner's 
generosity, but to his own magic. 

A feature which is universally recognised as reprehensible 
and discreditable, is a tendency to retain a number of valuables 
and be slow in passing them on. A man who did this would 
be called " hard in the Kula." The following is a native 
description of this feature as exhibited by the natives o1 the 

" The Gumasila, their Kula is very hard ; they are mean, 
they are retentive. They would like to take hold of one 
soulava, of two, of three big ones, of four perhaps. A man 
would pokala them, he would pokapokala ; if he is a kins- 
man he will get a soulava. The Kayleula only, and the 
Gumasila are mean. The Dobu, the Du'a'u, the Kitava 
are good. Coming to Muyuwa they are like Gumasila." 

This means that a man in Gumasila would let a number of 
necklaces accumulate in his possession ; would require plenty 
of food as pokala a characteristic reduplication describes the 
insistance and perseverance in pokala and even then he would 
give a necklace to a kinsman only. When I inquired from the 
same informant whether such a mean man would also run a risk 
of being killed by sorcery, he answered : 

" A man, who is very much ahead in the Kula he will 
die the mean man not ; he will sit in peace. 


Returning now to the concrete proceedings of the Kula, let 
us follow the movements of a Sinaketan toliwaga. He has pre- 
sumably received a necklace or two on his arrival ; but he has 
more partners and he expects more valuables. Before he 
receives his fill, he has to keep a taboo. He may not partake 
of any local food, neither yams, nor coco-nuts, nor betel pepper 
or nut. According to their belief, if he transgressed this taboo 
he would not receive any more valuables. He tries also to 
soften the heart of his partner by feigning disease. He will 
remain in his canoe and send word that he is ill. The Dobu 
man will know what such a conventional disease means. None 
the less, he may yield to this mode of persuasion. If this 
ruse does not succeed, the man may have recourse to magic. 
There is a formula called kwoygapani or ' enmeshing magic,' 


which seduces the mind of a man on whom it is practised, 
makes him silly, and thus amenable to persuasion, The 
formula is recited over a betel-nut or two, and these are given 
to the partner and to his wife or sister. 


" kwega leaf ; friendly kwega leaf ; kwega leaf 
hither ; O kwega leaf thither ! " 

" I shall enter through the mouth of the woman of 
Dobu ; I shall come out through the mouth of the man 
of Dobu. I shall enter through the mouth of the man of 
Dobu ; I shall come out through the mouth of the woman 
of Dobu." 

" Seducing kwega leaf ; enmeshing kwega leaf ; the mind 
of the woman of Dobu is seduced by the kwega leaf, is 
enmeshed by the kwega leaf." 

The expression " is seduced," " is enmeshed " by the 
kwega leaf, is repeated with a string of words such as : 
" Thy mind, man of Dobu," " thy refusal, woman of 
Dobu," " Thy disinclination, woman of Dobu," " Thy 
bowels, thy tongue, thy liver," going thus over all the 
organs of understanding and feeling, and over the words 
which describe these faculties. The last part is identical 
with that of one or two formulae previously quoted : 

" No more it is my mother ; my mother art thou, O 
woman of Dobu, etc." (Compare the Kaykakaya and 
Ka'ubana'i spells of the previous chapter.) 

Kwega is a plant, probably belonging to the same family as 
betel pepper, and its leaves are chewed with areca-nut and 
lime, when real betel-pods (mwayye) are not available. The 
kwega is, remarkably enough, invoked in more than one magical 
formula, instead of the real betel-pod. The middle part is 
quite clear. In it, the seducing and enmeshing power of the 
kwega is cast over all the mental faculties of the Dobuan, and on 
the anatomical seats of these faculties. After the application 
of this magic, all the resources of the soliciting man are ex- 
hausted. He has to give up hope, and take to eating the 
fruit of Dobu, as his taboo lapses. 

Side by side with the Kula, the subsidiary exchange of 
ordinary goods takes place. In Chapter VI, Division VI, we 
have classified the various types of give and take, as they are to 
be found in the Trobriand Islands. The inter-tribal trans- 
actions which now take place in Dobu also fit into that scheme 


The Kula itself belongs to class (6), ' Ceremonial Barter with 
deferred payment/ The offering of the pan, of landing gifts by 
the visitors, returned by the talo'i or farewell gifts from the hosts 
fall into the class (4) of presents more or less equivalent. 
Finally, between the visitors and the local people there takes 
place, also, barter pure and simple (gimwali). Between 
partners, however, there is never a direct exchange of "the 
gimwali type. The local man will as a rule contribute a bigger 
present, for the talo'i always exceeds the pari in quantity and 
value, and small presents are also given to the visitors during 
their stay. Of course, if in the pari there were included gifts of 
high value, like a stone blade or a good lime spoon, such 
solicitary gifts would always be returned in strictly equivalent 
form. The rest would be liberally exceeded in value. 

The trade takes place between the visitors and local natives, 
who are not their partners, but who must belong to the com- 
munity with whom the Kula is made. Thus, Numanuma, 
Tu'utauna and Bwayowa are the three communities which 
form what we have called the ' Kula community ' or ' Kula 
unit/ with whom the Sinaketans stand in the relation of partner- 
ship. And a Sinaketa man will gimwali (trade) only with a man 
from one of these villages who is not his personal partner. To 
use a native statement : 

" Some of our goods we give in pari ; some we keep 
back ; later on, we gimwali it. They bring their areca-nut, 
their sago, they put it down. They want some article of 
ours, they say : ' I want this stone blade/ We give it, 
we put the betel-nut, the sago into our canoe. If they give 
us, however, a not sufficient quantity, we rate them. 
Then they bring more." 

This is a clear definition of the gimwali, with haggling 
and adjustment of equivalence in the act. 

When the visiting party from Sinaketa arrive, the natives 
from the neighbouring districts, that is, from the small island 
of Dobu proper, from the other side of Dawson Straits, from 
Deyde'i, the village to the South, will assemble in the three 
Kula villages. These natives from other districts bring with 
them a certain amount of goods. But they must not trade 
directly with the visitors from Boyowa. They must exchange 
their goods with the local natives, and these, again will trade 
them with the Sinaketans. Thus the hosts from the Kula 


community act as intermediaries in any trading relations 
between the Sinaketans and the inhabitants of more remote 

To sum up the sociology of these transactions, we may 
say that the visitor enters into a threefold relation with the 
Dobuan natives. First, there is his partner, with whom he 
exchanges general gifts on the basis of free give and take, a 
type of transaction, running side by side with the Kula proper. 
Then there is the local resident, not his personal Kula partner, 
with whom he carries on gimwali. Finally there is the stranger 
with whom an indirect exchange is carried on through the 
intermediation of the local men. With all this, it must not be 
imagined that the commercial aspect of the gathering is at all 
conspicuous. The concourse of the natives is great, mainly 
owing to their curiosity, to see the ceremonial reception of the 
uvalaku party. But if I say that every visitor from Boyowa, 
brings and carries away about half-a-dozen articles, I do not 
under-state the case. Some of these articles the Sinaketan has 
acquired in the industrial districts of Boyowa during his pre- 
liminary trading expedition (see Chapter VI, Division III). 
On these he scores a definite gain. A few samples of the prices 
paid in Boyowa and those received in Dobu will indicate the 
amount of this gain. 

Kuboma to Sinaketa. Dobu to Sinaketa. 

i tanepopo basket = 12 coco-nuts =-12 coco-nuts -f- sago -(- 

i belt 

i comb = 4 coco-nuts = 4 coco-nuts ~f~ i bunch of 


i armlet 8 coco-nuts = 8 coco-nuts -f 2 bundles 

of betel 

i lime pot = 12 coco-nuts =12 coco-nuts -j- 2 pieces of 


This table shows in its second column the prices paid by the 
Sinaketans to the industrial villages of Kuboma, a district in 
the Northern Trobriands. In the third column what they 
receive in Dobu is recorded. The table has been obtained 
from a Sinaketan informant, and it probably is far from 
accurate, and the transactions are sure to vary greatly in the 
gain which they afford. There is no doubt, however, that for 


each article, the Sinaketan would ask the price which he paid 
for them as well as some extra article. 

Thus we see that there is in this transaction a definite gain 
obtained by the middlemen. The natives of Sinaketa act as 
intermediaries between the industrial centres of the Trobriands 
and Dobu, whereas their hosts play the same role between the 
Sinaketans and the men from the outlying districts 

Besides trading and obtaining of Kula valuables, the natives 
of Sinaketa visit their friends and their distant relatives, who, 
as we saw before, are to be found in this district owing to 
migrations. The visitors walk across the flat, fertile plain 
from one hamlet to the other, enjoying some of the marvellous 
and unknown sights of this district. They are shown the hot 
springs of Numanuma and of Deyde'i, which are in constant 
eruption. Every few minutes, the water boils up in one spring 
after another of each group, throwing up jets of spray a few 
metres high. The plain around these springs is barren, with 
nothing but here and there a stunted kind of eucalyptus tree. 
This is the only place in the whole of Eastern New Guinea where 
as far as I know, eucalyptus trees are to be found. This was at 
least the information of some intelligent natives, in whose 
company I visited the springs, and who had travelled all over 
the Eastern islands and the East end of the mainland. 

The land-locked bays and lagoons, the Northern end of 
Dawson Strait, enclosed like a lake by mountains and volcanic 
cones, all this must also appear strange and beautiful to the 
Trobrianders. In the villages, they are entertained by their 
male friends, the language spoken by both parties being that of 
Dobu, which differs completely from Kiriwinian, but which the 
Sinaketans learn in early youth. It is remarkable that no 
one in Dobu speaks Kiriwinian. 

As said above, no sexual relations of any description take 
place between the visitors and the women of Dobu. As one of 
the informants told me : 

" We do not sleep with women of Dobu, for Dobu is 
the final mountain (Koyaviguna Dobu); it is a taboo of 
the mwasila magic." 

But when I enquired, whether the results of breaking this 
taboo would be baneful to their success in Kula only, the reply 
was that they were afraid of breaking it, and that it was 


ordained of old (tokunabogwo ayguri) that no man should inter- 
fere with the women of Dobu. As a matter of fact, the 
Sinaketans are altogether afraid of the Dobuans, and they 
would take good care not to offend them in any way. 

After some three or four days' sojourn in Dobu, the 
Sinaketan fleet starts on its return journey. There is no 
special ceremony of farewell. In the early morning, they 
receive their talo'i (farewell gifts) of food, betel-nut, objects of 
use and sometimes also a Kula valuable is enclosed amongst the 
the talo'i. Heavily laden as they are, they lighten their canoes 
by means of a magic called kaylupa, and sail away northwards 
once more. 




THE return journey of the Sinaketan fleet is made by following 
exactly the same route as the one by which they came to Dobu. 
In each inhabited island, in every village, where a halt had 
previously been made, they stop again, for a day or a few hours. 
In the hamlets of Sanaroa, in Tewara and in the Amphletts, the 
partners are revisited. Some Kula valuables are received on 
the way back, and all the talo'i gifts from those intermediate 
partners are also collected on the return journey. In each of 
these villages people are eager to hear about the reception 
which the uvalaku party have received in Dobu ; the yield in 
valuables is discussed, and comparisons are drawn between the 
present occasion and previous records. 

No magic is performed now, no ceremonial takes place, and 
there would be very little indeed to say about the return journey 
but for two important incidents ; the fishing for spondylus 
shell (kaloma) in Sanaroa Lagoon, and the display and com- 
parison of the yield of Kula valuables on Muwa beach. 

The natives of Sinaketa, as we have seen in the last chapter, 
acquire a certain amount of the Koya produce by means of 
trade. There are, however, certain articles, useful yet un- 
obtainable in the Trobriands, and freely accessible in the Koya, 
and to these the Trobrianders help themselves. The glassy forms 
of "lava, known as obsidian, can be found in great quantities 
over the slopes of the hills in Sanaroa and Dobu. This article, 
in olden days, served the Trobrianders as material for razors, 
scrapers, and sharp, delicate, cutting instruments. Pummice- 
stone abounding in this district is collected and carried to the 
Trobriands, where it is used for polishing. Red ochre is also 
procured there by the visitors, and so are the hard, basaltic 
stones (binabina) used for hammering and pounding and for 


magical purposes. Finally, very fine silica sand, called maya, 
is collected on some of the beaches, and imported into the 
Trobriands, where it is used for polishing stone blades, of the 
kind which serve as tokens of value and which are manufactured 
up to the present day. 


But by far the most important of the articles which the 
Trobrianders collect for themselves are the spondylus shells. 
These are freely, though by no means easily, accessible in the 
coral outcrops of Sanaroa Lagoon. It is from this shell that the 
small circular perforated discs (kaloma) are made, out of which 
the necklaces of the Kula are composed, and which also serve 
for ornamenting almost all the articles of value or of artistic 
finish which are used within the Kula district. But, only in 
two localities within the district are these discs manufactured, 
in Sinaketa and in Vakuta, both villages in Southern Boyowa 
The shell can be found also in the Trobriand Lagoon, facing 
these two villages. But the specimens found in Sanaroa are 
much better in colour, and I think more easily procured. 
The fishing in this latter locality, however, is done by the 
Sinaketans only. 

Whether the fishing is done in their own Lagoon, near an 
uninhabited island called Nanoula, or in Sanaroa, it is always a 
big, ceremonial affair, in which the whole community takes 
part in a body. The magic, or at least part of it, is done for the 
whole community by the magician of the kaloma (iowosina 
kaloma), who also fixes the dates, and conducts the ceremonial 
part of the proceedings. As the spondylus shell furnishes 
one of the essential episodes of a Kula expedition, a detailed 
account both of fishing and of manufacturing must be here 
given. The native name, kaloma (in the Southern Massim 
districts the word sapi-sapi is used) describes both the shell 
and the manufactured discs. The shell is the large spondylus 
shell, containing a crystalline layer of a red colour, varying 
from dirty brick-red to a soft, raspberry pink, the latter being 
by far the most prized. It lives in the cavities of coral outcrop, 
scattered among shallow mud-bottomed lagoons. 

This shell is, according to tradition, associated with the 
village of Sinaketa. According to a Sinaketan legend, once 
upon a time, three guya'u (chief) women, belonging to the 


Tabalu sub-clan of the Malasi clan, wandered along, each 
choosing her place to settle in. The eldest selected the village 
of Omarakana ; the secpnd went to Gumilababa ; the youngest 
settled in Sinaketa. She had kaloma discs in her basket, and 
they were threaded on a long, thin stick, called viduna, such as 
is used in the final stage of manufacture. She remained first 
in a place called Kaybwa'u, but a dog howled, and she moved 
further on. She heard again a dog howling, and she took a 
kaboma (wooden plate) and went on to the fringing reef to collect 
shells. She found there the momoka (white spondylus), and she 
exclaimed: " Oh, this is the kaloma I " She looked closer, and 
said : " Oh no, you are not red. Your name is momoka" She 
took then the stick with the kaloma discs and thrust it into 
a hole of the reef. It stood there, but when she looked at it, she 
said : " Oh, the people from inland would come and see you and 
pluck you off." She went, she pulled out the stick ; she went 
into a canoe, and she paddled. She paddled out into the sea. 
She anchored there, pulled the discs off the stick, and she threw 
them into the sea so that they might come into the coral outcrop. 
She said : " It is forbidden that the inland natives should 
take the valuables. The people of Sinaketa only must dive/' 
Thus only the Sinaketa people know the magic, and how to 

This myth presents certain remarkable characteristics. 
I shall not enter into its sociology, though it differs in that 
respect from the Kiriwinian myths, in which the equality of the 
Sinaketan and the Gumilababan chiefs with those of Omarakana 
is not acknowledged. It is characteristic that the Malasi 
woman in this myth shows an aversion to the dog, the totem 
animal of the Lukuba clan, a clan which according to mythical 
and historical data had to recede before and yield its priority 
to the Malasi (compare Chapter XII, Division IV). Another 
detail of interest is that she brings the kaloma on their 
sticks, as they appear in the final stage of manufacturing. In 
this form, also, she tries to plant them on the reef. The finished 
kaloma, however, to use the words of one of my informants, 
" looked at her, the water swinging it to and fro ; flashing its 
red eyes." And the woman, seeing it, pulls out the too 
accessible and too inviting kaloma and scatters them over the 
deep sea. Thus she makes them inaccessible to the uninitiated 
inland villagers, and monopolises them for Sinaketa. There 


can be no doubt that the villages of Vakuta have learnt this 
industry from the Sinaketans. The myth is hardly known in 
Vakuta, only a few are experts in diving and manufacturing ; 
there is a tradition about a late transference of this industry 
there ; finally the Vakutans have never fished for kaloma in 
the Sanaroa Lagoon. 

Now let us describe the technicalities and the ceremonial 
connected with the fishing for kaloma. It will be better to give 
an account of how this is done in the Lagoon of Sinaketa, round 
the sandbank of Nanoula, as this is the normal and typical 
form of kaloma fishing. Moreover, when the Sinaketans do it 
in Sanaroa, the proceedings are very much the same, with just 
one or two phases missed out. 

The office of magician of the kaloma (towosina kaloma) is 
hereditary in two sub-clans, belonging to the Malasi clan, and 
one of them is that of the main chief of Kasi'etana. After the 
Monsoon season is over, that is, some time in March or April, 
ogibukuvi (i.e., in the season of the new yams) the magician 
gives the order for preparations. The community give him a 
gift called sousula, one or two bringing a vaygu'a, the rest 
supplying gugu'a (ordinary chattels), and some food. Then 
they prepare the canoes, and get ready the binabina stones, 
with which the spondylus shell will be knocked off the reef. 

Next day, in the morning, the magician performs a rite 
called ' kaykwa'una la'i,' ' the attracting of the reef/ for, as in 
the case of several other marine beings, the main seat of the 
kaloma is far away. Its dwelling place is the reef Ketabu, 
somewhere between Sanaroa and Dobu. In order to make it 
move and come towards Nanoula, it is necessary to recite the 
above-named spell. This is done by the magician as he walks 
up and down on the Sinaketa beach and casts his words into the 
open, over the sea, towards the distant seat of the kaloma. 
The kaloma then ' stand up ' (itolise) that is start from their 
original coral outcrop (vatu) and come into the Lagoon of 
Sinaketa. This spell, I obtained from To'udavada, the present 
chief of Kasi'etana, and descendant of the original giver of this 
shell, the woman of the myth. It begins with a long list of 
ancestral names ; then follows a boastful picture of how the 
whole fleet admires the magical success of the magician's spell. 
The key-word in the main part is the word ' itolo ' : 'it stands 
up/ i.e., ' it starts/ and with this, there are enumerated all the 


various classes of the kaloma shell, differentiated according to 
size, colour and quality. It ends up with another boast ; " My 
canoe is overladed with shell so that it sinks," which is repeated 
with varying phraseology. 

This spell the magician may utter once only, or he may 
repeat it several times on successive days. He fixes then the 
final date for the fishing expedition. On the evening 'before 
that date, the men perform some private magic, every one in his 
own house. The hammering stone, the gabila, which is always 
a binabina (it is a stone imported from the Koya), is charmed 
over. As a rule it is put on a piece of dried banana leaf with 
some red hibiscus blossoms and leaves or flowers of red colour. 
A formula is uttered over it, and the whole is then wrapped up 
in the banana leaf and kept there until it is used. This will 
make the stone a lucky one in hitting off many shells, and it will 
make the shells very red. 

Another rite of private magic consists in charming a large 
mussel shell, with which, on the next morning, the body of the 
canoe will be scraped. This makes the sea clear, so that the 
diver may easily see and frequently find his spondylus shells. 

Next morning the whole fleets starts on the expedition. 
Some food has been taken into the canoes, as the fishing usually 
lasts for a few days, the nights being spent on the beach of 
Nanoula. When the canoes arrive at a certain point, about 
half-way between Sinaketa and Nanoula, they all range them- 
selves in a row. The canoe of the magician is at the right 
flank, and he medicates a bunch of red hibiscus flowers, some 
red croton leaves, and the leaves of the red-blossomed mangrove 
red coloured substances being used to make the shell red, 
magically. Then, passing in front of all the other canoes, he 
rubs their prows with the bundle of leaves. After that, the 
canoes at both ends of the row begin to punt along, the row 
evolving into a circle, through which presently the canoe of the 
magician passes, punting along its diameter. At this place in 
the Lagoon, there is a small vatu (coral outcrop) called 
Vitukwayla'i. This is called the vatu of the baloma (spirits). 
At this vatu the magician's canoe stops, and he orders some 
of its crew to dive down and here to begin the gathering of 

Some more private magic is performed later on by each 
canoe on its own account. The anchor stone is charmed 




with some red hibiscus flowers, in order to make the spondylus 
shell red. There is another private magic called ' sweeping of 
the sea/ which, like the magic of the mussel shell, mentioaed 
above, makes the sea clear and transparent. Finally, there is 
an evil magic called ' besprinkling with salt water/ If a man 
does it over the others, he will annul the effects of their magic, 
and frustrate their efforts, while he himself would arouse 
astonishment and suspicion by the amount of shell collected. 
Such a man would dive down into the water, take some brine 
into his mouth, and emerging, spray it towards the other canoes, 
while he utters the evil charm. 

So much for the magic and the ceremonial associated with 
the spondylus fishing in the Trobriand Lagoon. In Sanaroa, 
exactly the same proceedings take place, except that there is no 
attracting of the reef, probably because they are already at the 
original seat of the kaloma. Again I was told that some of the 
private magic would be performed in Sinaketa before the fleet 
sailed on the Kula expedition. The objects medicated would 
be then kept, well wrapped in dried leaves. 

It may be added that neither in the one Lagoon nor in the 
other are there any private, proprietory rights to coral outcrops. 
The whole community of Sinaketa have their fishing grounds in 
the Lagoon, within which every man may hunt for his spondylus 
shell, and catch his fish at times. If the other spondylus 
fishing community, the Yakut ans, encroached upon their 
grounds, there would be trouble, and in olden days, fighting. 
Private ownership in coral outcrops exists in the Northern 
villages of the Lagoon, that is in Kavataria, and the villages on 
the island of Kayleula. 


We must now follow the later stages of the kaloma industry. 
The technology of the proceedings is so mixed up with remarka- 
able sociological and economic arrangements that it will be 
better to indicate it first in its main outlines. The spondylus 
consists of a shell, the size and shape of a hollowed out half of 
a pear, and of a flat, small lid. It is only the first part which is 
worked. First it has to be broken into pieces with a binabina 
or an utukema (green stone imported from Woodlark Island) as 
shown on Plate L (A). On each piece, then, can be seen the 


stratification of the shell : the outside layer of soft, chalky 
substance ; under this, the layer of red, hard, calcareous 
material, and then the inmost, white, crystalline stratum. 
Both the outside and inside have to be rubbed off, but first each 
piece has to be roughly rounded up, so as to form a thick circular 
lump. Such a lump (see foregrounds of Plates L (A), L (B)) is 
then put in the hole of a cylindrical piece of wood. This latter 
serves as a handle with which the lumps are rubbed on a piece 
of flat sandstone (see Plate L (B)). The rubbing is carried 
on so far till the outside and inside layers are gone, and there 
remains only a red, flat tablet, polished on both sides. In the 
middle of it, a hole is drilled through by means of a pump 
drill gigi'u (see Plate LI), and a number of such perforated 
discs are then threaded on a thin, but tough stick (see Plate 
LII), with which we have already met in the myth. Then 
the cylindrical roll is rubbed round and round on the flat sand- 
stone, until its form becomes perfectly symmetrical (see Plate 
LII). Thus a number of flat, circular discs, polished all 
round and perforated in the middle, are produced. The break- 
ing and the drilling, like the diving are done exclusively by 
men. The polishing is as a rule woman's work. 

This technology is associated with an interesting sociological 
relation between the maker and the man for whom the article 
is made. As has been stated in Chapter II, one of the main 
features of the Trobriand organisation consists of the mutual 
duties between a man and his wife's maternal kinsmen. They 
have to supply him regularly with yams at harvest time, while 
he gives them the present of a valuable now and then. The 
manufacture of kaloma valuables in Sinaketa is very often 
associated with this relationship. The Sinaketan manufacturer 
makes his kutadababile (necklace of large beads) for one of his 
relatives-in-law, while this latter pays him in food. In accord- 
ance with this custom, it happens very frequently that a 
Sinaketan man marries a woman from one of the agricultural 
inland villages, or even a woman of Kiriwina. Of course, if 
he has no relatives-in-law in one of these villages, he will have 
friends or distant relatives, and he will make the string for one 
or the other of them. Or else he will produce one for himself, 
and launch it into the Kula. But the most typical and inter- 
esting case is, when the necklace is produced to order for a man 
who repays it according to a remarkable economic system, a 


By means of a pump drill, a hole is bored in each disc. (Sec Div. III.) 

& . 


'5 2 


v y , 


a -8; 

_ o u 



M -U 

MH 1) 
g ' 

sS ! 



j_i ? 


system similar to the payments in instalments, which I have 
mentioned with regard to canoe making. I shall give here, 
following closely the native text, a translation of an account of 
the payments for kalonta making. 


Supposing some man from inland lives in Kiriwina or in 
Luba or in one of the villages nearby ; he wants a katuda- 
babile. He would request an expert fisherman who knows 
how to dive for kaloma. This man agrees ; he dives, he 
dives . . . till it is sufficient ; his vataga (large folding 
basket) is already full, this man (the inlander) hears the 
rumour ; he, the master of the kaloma (that is, the man 
for whom the necklace will be made) says : " Good ! I 
shall just have a look ! " He would come, he would see, 
he would not give any vakapula payment. He (here the 
Sinaketan diver is meant) would say : " Go, tomorrow, 
I shall break the shell, come here, give me vakapula." 
Next day, he (the inlander) would cook food, he would 
bring, he would give vakapula ; he (the diver) would break 
the shell. Next day, the same. He (the inlander) would 
give the vakapula, he (the diver) would break the shell. 
Supposing the breaking is already finished, he (the diver) 
would say : " Good ! already the breaking is. finished, 
I shall polish/' Next day, he (the inlander) would cook 
food, would bring bananas, coco-nut, betel-nut, sugar cane, 
would give it as vakapula ; this man (the diver) polishes. 
The polishing already finished, he would speak : " Good ! 
To-morrow I shall drill." This man (the inlander) would 
bring food, bananas, coco-nuts, sugar cane, he would give 
it as vakapula : it would be abundant, for soon already the 
necklace will be finished. The same, he would give a big 
vakapula on the occasion of the rounding up of the cylinder, 
for soon everything will be finished. When finished, we 
thread it on a string, we wash it. (Note the change 
from the third singular into the first plural). We give 
it to our wife, we blow the conch shell ; she would go, 
she would carry his valuable to this man, our relati ve- 
in-law. Next day, he would yomelu ; he would catch 
a pig, he would break off a bunch of betel-nut, he would cut 
sugar cane, bananas, he would fill the baskets with food, 
and spike the coco-nut on a multi-forked piece of wood. 
By-and-by he would bring it. Our house would be filled 
up. Later on we would make a distribution of the 
bananas, of the sugar cane, of the betel-nut. We give it 
to our helpers. We sit, we sit (i.e., we wait) ; at harvest 


time he brings yams, he karibudaboda (he gives the pay- 
ment of that name), the necklace. He would bring the 
food and fill out our yam house. 

This narrative, like many pieces of native information, needs 
certain corrections of perspective. In the first place, events 
here succeed one another with a rapidity quite foreign to the 
extremely leisurely way in which natives usually accpmplish 
such a lengthy process as the making of a katudababile. The 
amount of food which, in the usual manner, is enumerated over 
and over again in this narrative would probably not be exagger- 
ated, for such is native economy a man who makes a necklace 
to order would get about twice as much or even more for it than 
it would fetch in any other transaction. On the other hand, it 
must be remembered that what is represented here as the final 
payment, the karibudaboda, is nothing else but the normal 
filling up of the yam house, always done by a man's relations-in- 
law. None the less, in a year in which a katudababile would be 
made, the ordinary yearly harvest gift would be styled the 
' karibudaboda payment for the necklace.' The giving of the 
necklace to the wife, who afterwards carries it to her brother or 
kinsman, is also characteristic of the relation between relatives- 

In Sinaketa and Vakuta only the necklaces made of bigger 
shell and tapering towards the end are made. The real Kula 
article, in which the discs are much thinner, smaller in diameter 
and even in size from one end of the necklace to the other, these 
were introduced into the Kula at other points, and I shall 
speak about this subject in one of the following chapters 
(Chapter XXI), where the other branches of the Kula are 


Now, having come to an end of this digression on kaloma, 
let us return for another short while to our Sinaketan party, 
whom we have left on the Lagoon of Sanaroa. Having obtained 
a sufficient amount of the shells, they set sail, and re-visiting 
Tewara and Gumasila, stopping perhaps for a night on one of 
the sandbanks of Pilolu, they arrive at last in their home 
Lagoon. But before rejoining their people in their villages, 
they stop for the last halt on Muwa. Here they make what 


is called tanarere, a comparison and display of the valuables 
obtained on this trip. From each canoe, a mat or two are 
spread on the sand beach, and the men put their necklaces on 
the mat. Thus a long row of valuables lies on the beach, and 
the members of the expedition walk up and down, admire, and 
count them. The chiefs would, of course, have always the 
greatest haul, more especially the one who has been the 
toli'uvalaku on that expedition. 

After this is over, they return to the village. Each canoe 
blows its conch shell, a blast for each valuable that it contains. 
When a canoe has obtained no vaygu'a at all, this means great 
shame and distress for its members, and especially for the 
toliwaga. Such a canoe is said to bisikureya, which means 
literally ' to keep a fast/ 

On the beach all the villagers are astir. The women, who 
have put on their new grass petticoats (sevata'i) specially made 
for this occasion, enter the water and approach the canoes to 
unload them. No special greetings pass between them and 
their husbands. They are interested in the food brought from 
Dobu, more especially in the sago. 

People from other villages assemble also in great numbers 
to greet the incoming party. Those who have supplied their 
friends or relatives with provisions for their journey, receive 
now sago, betel-nuts and coco-nuts in repayment. Some of the 
welcoming crowd have come in order to make Kula. Even 
from the distant districts of Luba and Kiriwina natives will 
travel to Sinaketa, having a fair idea of the date of the arrival 
of the Kula party from Dobu. The expedition will be talked 
over, the yield counted, the recent history of the important 
valuables described. But this stage leads us already into the 
subject of inland Kula, which will form the subject of one of 
the following chapters. 





IN the twelve preceding chapters, we have followed an expedi- 
tion from Sinaketa to Dobu. But branching off at almost every 
step from its straight track, we studied the various associated 
institutions and underlying beliefs ; we quoted magical 
formulae, and told mythical stories, and thus we broke up the 
continuous thread of the narrative. In this chapter, as we 
are already acquainted with the customs, beliefs and institutions 
implied in the Kula, we are ready to follow a straight and 
consecutive tale of an expedition in the inverse direction, from 
Dobu to Sinaketa. 

As I have seen, indeed followed, a big uvalaku expedition 
from the South to the Trobriands, I shall be able to give some 
of the scenes from direct impression, and not from recon- 
struction. Such a reconstruction for one who has seen 
much of the natives' tribal life and has a good grip over intelli- 
gent informants is neither very difficult nor need it be fanciful 
at all. Indeed, towards the end of my second visit, I had 
several times opportunities to check such a reconstruction by 
witnessing the actual occurrence, for after my first year's stay 
in the Trobriands I had written out already some of my material. 
As a rule, even in minute details, my reconstructions hardly 
differed from reality, as the tests have shown. None the less, 
it is possible for an Ethnographer to enter into concrete details 
with more conviction when he describes things actually seen. 

In September, 1917, an uvalaku expedition was led by 
Kouta'uya from Sinaketa to Dobu. The Vakutans joining 
them on the way, and the canoes of the Amphletts following 
them also, some forty canoes finally arrived at the western 
shore of Dawson Straits. It was arranged then and there that 
a return expedition from that district should visit Sinaketa in 






CQ u 





about six months' time. Kauyaporu, the esa'esa (headman) 
of Kesora'i hamlet in the village of Bwayowa, had a pig with 
circular tusks. He decided therefore to arrange an uvalaku 
expedition, at the beginning of which the pig was to be killed 
and feasted upon and its tusks turned into ornaments. 

When, in November, 1917, I passed through the district, 
the preparing of the canoes was already afoot. All of those, 
which still could be repaired, had been taken to pieces and were 
being relashed, recaulked and repainted. In some hamlets, 
new dugouts were being scooped. After a few months stay in 
the Trobriands, I went South again in March, 1918, intending 
to spend some time in the Amphletts. Landing there is always 
difficult, as there are no anchorages near the shore, and it is 
quite impossible to disembark in rough weather at night. I 
arrived late in a small cutter, and had to cruise between 
Gumasila and Domdom, intending to wait till daybreak and 
then effect a landing. In the middle of the night, however, 
a violent north-westerly squall came down, and making a 
split in the main-sail, forced us to run before the wind, south- 
wards towards Dobu. It was on this night that the native 
boys employed in the boat, saw the mulukwausi flaming up at 
the head of the mast. The wind dropped before daybreak, 
and we entered the Lagoon of Sanaroa, in order to repair the 
sail. During the three days we stopped there, I roamed over 
the country, climbing its volcanic cones, paddling up the 
creeks and visiting the villages scattered on the coral plain. 
Everywhere I saw signs of the approaching departure for 
Boyowa ; the natives preparing their canoes on the beach to 
be loaded, collecting food in the gardens and making sago in 
the jungle. At the head of one of the creeks, in the midst of a 
sago swamp, there was a long, low shelter which serves as a 
dwelling to Dobuan natives from the main Island when they 
come to gather sago. This swamp was said to be reserved to 
a certain community of Tu'utauna. 

Another day I came upon a party of local natives from 
Sanaroa, who were pounding sago pulp out of a palm, and 
sluicing it with water. A big tree had been felled, its bark 
stripped in the middle of the trunk in a large square, and the 
soft, fleshy interior laid open. There were three men standing 
in a row before it and pounding away at it. A few more men 
waited to relieve the tired ones. The pounding instruments, 


half club, half adzes, had thick but not very broad blades of 
green stone, of the same type as I have seen among the Mailu 
natives of the South Coast.* 

The pulp was then carried in baskets to a neighbouring 
btream. At this spot there was a natural trough, one of the 
big, convex scales, which form the basis of the sago leaf. In 
the middle of it, a sieve was made of a piece of coco-nut spathing, 
a fibre which covers the root of a coco-nut leaf, and looks at 
first sight exactly like a piece of roughly woven material 
Water was directed so that it flowed into the trough at its 
broad end, coming out at the narrow one. The sago pulp was 
put at the top, the water carried away with it the powdered 
sago starch, while the wooden, husky fibres were retained by 
the sieve. The starch was then carried with the water into a 
big wooden canoe-shaped trough ; there the heavier starch 
settled down, while the water welled over the brim. When 
there is plenty of starch, the water is drained off carefully and 
the starch is placed into another of the trough-shaped, sago 
leaf bases, where it is allowed to dry. In such receptacles it is 
then carried on a trading expedition, and is thus counted as one 
unit of sago. 

I watched the proceedings for a long time with great 
interest. There is something fascinating about the big, anti- 
deluvian-looking sago palm, so malignant and unapproachable 
in its unhealthy, prickly swamp, being turned by man into food 
by such simple and direct methods. The sago produced and 
eaten by the natives is a tough, starchy stuff, of dirty white 
colour, very unpalatable. It has the consistency of rubber, 
and the taste of very poor, unleavened bread. It is not clear, 
like the article which is sold under the name of sago in our 
groceries but is mealy, tough, and almost elastic. The natives 
consider it a great delicacy, and bake it into little cakes, or boil 
it into dumplings. 

The main fleet of the Dobuans started some time in the 
second half of March from their villages, and went first to the 
beach of Sarubwoyna, where they held a ceremonial distribution 
of food, eguya'i, as it is called in Dobu. Then, offering the 
pokala to Aturamo'a and Atu'a'ine, they sailed by way of 
Sanaroa and Tewara, passing the tabooed rock of Gurewaya to 

* See the Author's Memoir, " The Natives of Mailu " in Transactions 
of the R. Society of S. Australia for 1915, p. 598. 


the Amphletts. The wind was light and changeable, weak 
S.W. breezes prevailing. The progress of this stage of the 
journey must have been very slow. The natives must have 
spent a few nights on the intermediate islands and sandbanks, 
a few canoes 1 crews camping at one spot. 

At that time I had already succeeded in reaching the 
Amphletts, and had been busy for two or three weeks doing 
ethnographic work, though not very successfully ; for, as I have 
already once or twice remarked, the natives here are very 
bad informants. I knew of course that the Dobuan fleet was 
soon to come, but as my experience had taught me to mistrust 
native time-tables and fixtures of date, I did not expect them 
to be punctual. In this, however, I was mistaken. On a 
Kula expedition, when the dates are once fixed, the natives 
make real and strenuous efforts to keep to them. In the 
Amphletts the people were busy preparing for the expedition, 
because they had the intention of joining the Dobuans and 
proceeding with them to the Trobriands. A few canoes went 
to the mainland to fetch sago, pots were being mustered and 
made ready for stowing away, canoes were overhauled. When 
the small expedition returned from the mainland with sago, 
after a week or so, a sagali (in Amphlettan ; madare), that is, a 
ceremonial distribution of food was held on the neighbouring 
island, Nabwageta. 

My arrival was a very untoward event to the natives, and 
complicated matters, causing great annoyance to Tovasana, the 
main headman. I had landed in his own little village, Nu'agasi, 
on the island of Gumasila, for it was impossible to anchor near 
the big village, nor would there have been room for pitching 
a tent. Now, in the Amphletts, a white man is an exceedingly 
rare occurrence, and to my knowledge, only once before, a white 
trader remained there for a few weeks. To leave me alone with 
the women and one or two old men was impossible, according 
to their ideas and fears, and none of the younger men wanted 
to forgo the privilege end pleasure of taking part in the 
expedition. At last, I promised them to move to the neighbour- 
ing island of Nabwageta, as soon as the men were gone, and 
with this they were satisfied. 

As the date fixed for the arrival of the Dobuans approached, 
the excitement grew. Little by little the news arrived, and 
was eagerly received and conveyed to me : " Some sixty canoes 


of the Dobuans are coming," " the fleet is anchored off Tewara," 
" each canoe is heavily laden with food and gifts/' " Kauyaporu 
sails in his canoe, he is toli'uvalaku, and has a big pandanus 
streamer attached to the prow/ 1 A string of other names 
followed which had very little meaning for me, since I was 
not acquainted with the Dobuan